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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Florida International: NIEHS Awards $6.6 million to Study Parkinson’s Disease

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has awarded Dr. Kim Tieu, professor and interim chair of the department of Environmental Health Sciences at Florida International University Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, a $6.6 million grant to study how brain cells die in Parkinson’s disease and to develop effective drug therapies for this brain condition.

Known as the NIEHS Revolutionizing Innovative, Visionary Environmental health Research (RIVER) program, this grant provides outstanding investigators the flexibility and stability to conduct transformative research with continuous funding for eight years.

“We know that the environment plays a crucial role in overall health, including the brain, and that exposures to environmental toxicants, most likely in combination with an individual’s genetic makeup, may lead to all sorts of diseases, including Parkinson’s,” Dr. Tieu said. “Some of the environmental factors that we will study are manganese and pesticides to better understand how they promote the accumulation and spread of toxic proteins in the brain.”

Based on his recent discovery of a new function of dynamin related protein-1 (Drp1), which is commonly known to split mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell), Dr. Tieu will research Drp1’s role in the accumulation of toxic proteins and how different types of brain cells and gene-environment interact with each other leading to cell death. Dr. Tieu and his team will also study how gut bacteria may cause Parkinson’s disease, a relatively new area of interest in the field of Parkinson’s disease.

The ultimate goal for Dr. Tieu and his team is to contribute to the development of new therapeutic interventions for Parkinson’s disease.

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