MCW receives grant supporting research in neurodegenerative disease
April 30, 2014 College News - The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a three-year, $740,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke funding research investigating how neurons clear toxic proteins involved in neurodegenerative disease.
Matthew Scaglione, Ph.D., assistant professor in Biochemistry and an investigator in MCW’s neuroscience research center, is the principal investigator of the grant. Research in the Scaglione laboratory focuses on understanding how cells identify and then repair or eliminate toxic proteins.
Proteins are normally folded into specific three-dimensional structures, and the structure of a protein allows it to function normally within the cell. Misfolded proteins must therefore be degraded (broken down so they may no longer function) or re-folded into its proper configuration. Neurons in the body have the capability of eliminating these toxic proteins, and many neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) share a common feature: accumulation of aberrantly-folded proteins.
The specific roles these clusters of misfolded proteins play in neurodegenerative disease and how neurons deal with them are unknown and are the subject of intense research efforts. The Scaglione laboratory has recently identified a novel enzyme involved in breaking down proteins. A major goal of this grant is to determine the role of this enzyme in cellular handling of toxic proteins.
The results of this project will provide insight into mechanisms by which neurons eliminate aberrant proteins, and may guide research in finding cures for neurodegenerative disease.