Neurodegenerative disorders constitute a major challenge of modern medicine. Although these disorders are common and often highly debilitating, the mechanisms responsible for their pathologies are poorly understood, and there are currently no effective preventative therapies. My laboratory has been using genetic, genomic, and proteomic methods in the fruit fly Drosophila to address these matters. Fruit flies are ideal for this work because many features of nervous system development and function are conserved between flies and vertebrates, and there are now many powerful genetic tools that have been developed over the >100-year period of time that flies have been used as a model system. Over the past 10 years we have made fly models of several different neurodegenerative diseases, including the movement disorder Parkinson’s disease (PD) and the lipid storage pediatric neurodegerative disorder, Niemann Pick Type C disease. Studies of our PD models, indicate that the accumulation of damaged mitochondria is an important cause of this disease. Because the accumulation of damaged mitochondria is also strongly implicated in aging and in the pathogenesis of many common diseases, a large fraction of my laboratory is now devoted to an understnding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the selective detection and degradation of damaged mitochondria. The long-term goal of all of our work is to define the genetic pathways responsible for pathology in neurodegenerative disorders, such that rationale treatments can be developed for these disorders.
Copyright © 2003-2013 Molecular & Cellular Biology Program, University of Washington
Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center | University of Washington
Institute for Systems Biology | Seattle Biomed