Nonhuman primate models of Parkinson's disease are making key contributions to improved diagnosis and treatment.  
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Parkinson's Disease

More than one million Americans suffer from Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that causes debilitating loss of motor function. Researchers in the Divisions of Neurochemistry and Behavioral Biology are working in collaboration with colleagues from several Harvard-affiliated hospitals to improve diagnosis and treatment of this devastating disease.

Parkinson's disease continues to pose significant diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. Diagnosing the disease before the loss of motor control that signals advanced degeneration is of vital importance and a major focus of research in the Division of Neurochemistry. Using radio-labeled compounds that target key proteins responsible for regulating brain dopamine levels, this research is developing improved PET (positron emission tomography) and SPECT (single photon emission computerized tomography) imaging techniques to visualize neural changes before motor symptoms emerge.

Conventional treatment of Parkinson's disease relies heavily on the dopamine precursor L-dopa, which is rarely effective for long-term treatment. Using advanced nonhuman primate models of Parkinson's disease that exhibit progressive loss of dopaminergic function, NEPRC researchers are helping to develop several new treatment strategies. These novel approaches include the use of new pharmacotherapies to selectively target mild and severe Parkinsonian symptoms, neuroprotective agents to halt disease progression, and cellular replacement techniques to reinnervate critical brain regions and restore normal function.




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