The NIH recently announced it has awarded a $413,000, two-year grant to Dr. D. Allan Butterfield, PhD, a researcher at the University of Kentucky (UK) Department of Chemistry and Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA), to study a new model of Parkinson’s disease (PD).
Dr. Butterfield who is the Endowed Professor of Biological Chemistry, Director, Redox Metabolism Shared Resource Facility, Markey Cancer Center, Faculty, SBCoA, Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, Special Assistant to the Vice President for Research, UK, and an NIH alumnus, has been working in the field of neuroscience and neurochemistry for close to 40 years. Dr. Butterfield’s research is focused on understanding the impact of free radical oxidative stress on aging and age-related neurodegenerative disorders. His lab studies the neurodegenerative stress caused by free radicals using a variety of techniques, including immunochemical, metabolomic, and proteomics methods. Dr. Butterfield and his team were the first to describe how oxidative stress is associated with amyloid β-peptide deposits in brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Butterfield will use the awarded grant to study animal models of inherited PD in which the animals have been bred to lack the Pink-1 Gene, a gene known to cause inherited PD. Using MRI and MRS (analyzes molecules such as hydrogen ions or protons) the researchers will measure levels of oxidative stress of the isolated animal brains and compare them to brains of PD patients to understand how the missing gene in the animal models mirrors the neurochemical changes in human models.
At the end of the two-year award Dr. Butterfield hopes to have accomplished an innate understanding of Pink-1’s role in PD. If the animal model does indeed represent the neurophysiological changes found in patients with inherited PD, Dr. Butterfield will then apply for additional NIH funding to study the potential environmental-gene interactions that are responsible for PD development.
In a University press release Dr. Butterfield, stated, “Such interactions must be important, or else everyone exposed to particular environmental insults should develop PD, but clearly this is not the case. I’m anxious to begin this important research that hopefully one day will lead to much better understanding of the mechanisms underlying PD and therapeutic interventions to slow or arrest the progression of this serious neurodegenerative disorder.”