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Sunday 18 August 2019

Actor Michael J Fox's foundation gives €267,500 to Irish Parkinson's research

Actor Michael J Fox. Picture: Getty
Actor Michael J Fox. Picture: Getty
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A foundation set up by Hollywood actor Michael J Fox has given €267,523 to Irish researchers looking at a novel therapy for Parkinson's disease.

The 'Back to the Future' star, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's at 29 but has had an active acting career, set up the foundation to find a cure for the disease and find improved therapies for treatment of patients.

A team at NUI Galway will benefit from the funding to look at the role of brain repair for Parkinson's which involves replacing dead cells by transplanting healthy brain cells back into the brain.

The widespread roll-out of this therapy has been hampered by the poor survival of the implanted cells.

Parkinson's disease, which affects 12,000 people in Ireland, is a condition that affects a person's ability to control movement leading to a progressive deterioration.

Symptoms of the condition are caused by the degeneration and death of brain cells that regulate movement.

Dr Eilís Dowd's research team at NUI Galway has already demonstrated that the survival of the cells is dramatically improved when they are implanted into the brain within a supportive gel made from collagen.

The funding from The Michael J Fox Foundation will allow Dr Dowd to take this research to the next step where she will test if the collagen gel can also improve the survival of healthy brain cells generated from adult stem cells.

Dr Dowd said: "In our previous research published in the 'Nature' journal, 'Scientific Reports', we showed that collagen provides the cells with a nurturing, supportive environment in the brain and helps them to survive the aversive transplant process.

"This funding from The Michael J Fox Foundation will allow us to test if this approach can also improve survival and reparative ability of healthy brain cells derived from adult stem cells.

"If so, this could lead to a dramatic improvement in brain repair approaches for Parkinson's - a field that has been hampered for years by poor transplant survival."

The research will be led by Dr Dowd, in collaboration with colleagues from the Galway Neuroscience Centre and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, and University of Edinburgh.

Irish Independent

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