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Grant Supports Research to Improve Parkinson’s Treatment | News

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Grant Supports Research to Improve Parkinson’s Treatment
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HOLLAND – A grant from the Campbell Foundation of Grand Rapids is supporting Hope College neuroscientist Dr. Gregory Fraley in his ongoing research focused on improving the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease.

Fraley, an associate professor of biology, is working with researchers at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City to study the effectiveness of a compound that may offset one of the drawbacks of the treatment:  the potential to damage brain cells and in so doing limit its very effectiveness.  The two-year award from the Campbell Foundation will provide a total of $50,000 in support from July 2011 through June 2013.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be used for Parkinson’s patients who no longer respond to drug therapy.  The treatment involves implanting wired electrodes into the brain to deliver electrical stimulation to the areas in which the disease’s tremors and other symptoms are believed to originate.

One challenge, Fraley noted, is that the cells near the electrodes can become scarred during the surgical procedure to insert them.

“This scarring process is a major source of failure in chronically implantable electrodes,” Fraley said.  “Thus, there is a pressing need to identify biochemical agents that protect the brain after DBS injury.”

Fraley isn’t involved in the surgical procedure.  He is instead examining the potential of a compound, known as Resveratrol (RESV), to limit neuronal damage in the brain.  Resveratrol is found naturally in wine but also manufactured synthetically.  His work through the Campbell Foundation-funded research will follow up on earlier research he conducted that suggests that treatment with RESV prevents signs of brain damage and certain motor deficits often seen in Parkinson’s patients who undergo DBS.

Fraley has been working on the research with Drs. Joerg Leheste, German Torres and Brian Hallas at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Hope students have also been participating on the project as collaborative researchers and will continue to do so, with resultant opportunities to participate in major conferences.  Senior biology major Julia Becker of Glenview, Ill., for example, has discussed the research during the April 2010 “Posters on the Hill” reception organized by the Council on Undergraduate Research in Washington, D.C., and the November annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, Calif.

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