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Brigham and Women’s Hospital is home to one of 9 National Institutes of Health Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease Research. The Udall Center program was developed in honor of former U.S. Congressman Morris K. Udall of Arizona, who fought a long battle with the disease. The Udall Centers use a multidisciplinary research approach to shed light on the fundamental causes of Parkinson’s disease (PD) as well as to improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients with PD and related disorders.

The BWH Udall Center brings together a group of basic neuroscientists who are dedicated to the investigation of the pathogenic mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and clinicians who are dedicated to the treatment of PD patients and improving the quality of their lives. The primary goal of our Udall Center is to advance PD research through investigation of two major PD genes, α-synuclein and LRRK2, in the pathogenesis. There are three Research Projects and one Research Core in our Udall Center with a central theme on autophagy, which is a major protein degradation pathway that often goes awry in neurodegenerative disease, as α-synuclein is degraded through this pathway and LRRK2 is an essential regulator. We will investigate how α-synuclein mediates its neurotoxicity in mouse and human neurons (Tom Südhof), how genetic defects in LRRK2 cause PD (Jie Shen), and how LRRK2 regulates autophagy pathways and α-synuclein homeostasis (Zhenyu Yue). Two other major missions of our Udall Center are the training of independent and competent next generation PD researchers and our service as local resources for PD patient community, which are headed by our Training Director, Mel Feany, and our public Outreach Director, David Simon, respectively.

Public Health Statement: Our Udall Center addresses a pressing public need to better understand the pathogenesis of PD. We employ state-of-the art, complementary multidisciplinary approaches to investigate how mutations in the two major PD genes, LRRK2 and α-synuclein, cause PD. Our Center serves a unique niche in the Udall Center program with emphasis on basic science, molecular pathways, multifaceted and multidisciplinary approaches from mouse neurons to brains to human neurons, and from biochemical and cell biological techniques to genetics, imaging, electrophysiology and mouse behavior.

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