The focus of our research is directed at understanding gene expression with regards to pre-mRNA splicing. Expression of most metazoan transcripts requires removing introns from the primary transcript and splicing together the remaining sequences to produce a mature transcript. The fidelity of pre-mRNA splicing must be maintained since errors may lead to the development of disease.
In one study we are testing the hypothesis that "Disruption of splicing regulation contributes significantly to progressive neurodegeneration". In these studies we are identifying transcripts whose splicing regulation is disrupted in Parkinson's disease and Parkinsonism. The intent of these studies is to identify splice variants that may be used as biomarkers for Parkinson's disease so that treatment may be begun at an early stage of disease onset and efficacy of drug treatment may be monitored using molecular biomarkers.
In another study we are searching for biomarkers of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress plays a major role in the etiology and pathological progression of many chronic diseases some of which are potentially preventable by eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants. In order to identify potential dietary supplements that have antioxidant activity, there is a critical need for additional simple, reliable, sensitive and non-invasive
biomarkers. We will test the hypothesis that plasma miRNA biomarkers may be used to assess the antioxidant activity of nutritional supplements and an antioxidant rich diet.