RCSI leads new €1.8m research project to explore Parkinson’s disease progression

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A new project led by researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences aims to uncover critical insights into the progression and potential treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

The ambitious €1.8 million study, known as the 4DPD-Omics project, is coordinated by Professor Jochen Prehn, Chair of the RCSI Department of Physiology and Medical Physics and Principal Investigator at the SFI FutureNeuro research centre. It hopes to enhance understanding of the neurodegenerative disorder Parkinson’s disease through advanced analysis techniques. Dr Niamh Connolly, Lecturer, RCSI Department of Physiology and Medical Physics is also a partner on the project.

The project will explore how specific genes and proteins behave across different cell types and disease stages. Focusing on the abnormal protein deposits known as α-synuclein that are characteristic of Parkinson’s, the researchers are aiming to find new targets for future treatments.

Professor Jochen Prehn highlighted the innovative nature of the research: "This project represents a significant step forward in Parkinson’s disease research. By examining how different cell types respond to the disease and identifying key changes occurring in genes and proteins, we hope to discover important targets for therapy. We will also confirm our findings in clinical samples and combine them with patient data to contribute to the development of more personalised treatment strategies."

Funded by the EU Joint Programme for Neurodegenerative Diseases Research (JPND) through the Health Research Board (HRB), 4DPD-Omics is a collaboration with expert researchers in Ireland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The project is further supported by the advanced single-cell and spatial analysis platforms funded through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Infrastructure Programme.

Dr Niamh Connolly emphasised the collaborative effort involved: "The 4DPD-Omics project brings together a diverse team of researchers and clinicians, united by a common goal to better understand and ultimately combat Parkinson’s disease. Our multidisciplinary approach, combined with cutting-edge technology, will enable us to delve deeper into the disease mechanisms."

Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) has been embedded in the project from an early stage, with the Dutch Parkinson patient association, Parkinson’s Alliance Netherlands, and patient advisory panels at FutureNeuro research centre in RCSI and DZNE actively contributing. Additionally, the Scientific Advisory Board will include a representative from a major patient association from one of the partner countries.

The 4DPD-Omics project promises to yield valuable insights that could pave the way for new, targeted therapies for Parkinson’s disease, potentially benefitting the millions of people worldwide living with Parkinson’s.