Parkinson's disease (PD) is currently an incurable, chronic and debilitating basal ganglia disorder, centrally due to the degeneration of midbrain dopaminergic neurons (mesDA) subtypes, with closely related types of neurons also implicated in secondary ways. The overarching hypothesis of this work is that understanding the molecular-genetic mechanisms of the precise initial development of mesDA subtypes will potentially contribute importantly in cellular replacement and circuit repair or modulation strategies of vulnerable circuitry. Identifying the molecular-genetic controls over subtype-specific generation and differentiation of such mesDA subtypes likely represents a critical step for the development of cellular replacement / circuit repair strategies in PD, since key developmental programs are re-initiated in the adult CNS upon neuronal loss.
In the laboratory, by using innovative approaches such as microsurgery in PD models, fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) and state of the art molecular neuroscience, Dr. Sohur and his group investigate how different populations of mesDA develop in the brain. By understanding the molecular mechanisms of the subtype specificity of mesDA with precision, it is hoped that, down the road, we will translate these findings to help our patients with PD.