The focus of our research is directed at understanding how the disruption of the regulation of RNA metabolism leads to neurodegeneration. In one project, we tested the hypothesis that expression of RNA is dysregulated in whole blood of Parkinson’s disease patients and therefore measuring the abundance of the up- and down-regulated transcripts would be helpful in identifying molecular biomarkers. In our study, we identified an RNA biosignature that identifies Parkinson’s disease patients from controls. Some of the biomarkers are useful for distinguishing between Parkinson’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy and multiple system atrophy patients. We are now testing the markers to see if they are useful for identifying individuals “at risk” for Parkinson’s disease. The results from these studies are expected to identify biomarkers useful for diagnosing Parkinson’s disease before the onset of motor symptom, which should allow for therapeutic intervention early during disease development when it is expected to be the most beneficial. In addition, we are testing the markers to see if they are useful for monitoring the progression of the disease.
In a second project, we are investigating the dysregulated pathways and molecular networks that are shared between Parkinson’s disease and diabetes using bioinformatic approaches. From these studies we have identified additional biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease. We expect that these markers may be useful for clinical studies designed to identify nutrients and diets that may be beneficial for patients.