adenosine molecule fragment

Schwarzschild Lab - Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory

The Schwarzschild lab targets three purines—adenosine, caffeine and urate—in pursuit of improved therapy for Parkinson’s and related neurodegenerative diseases.

Lab Phone: 617-724-9611

MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MIND)

Neurology Access Center: 1-855-644-6387


Research Description

The Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, under the direction of Michael Schwarzschild, MD PhD, investigates molecular mechanisms in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease in an effort to develop improved therapies for Parkinson’s and related neurodegenerative diseases. We focus on a natural class of compounds known as purines, in particular the role of three purines — adenosine, caffeine and urate — and how targeting them may prevent or slow the brain cell degeneration of Parkinson’s.

The lab is pursuing major epidemiological and clinical clues to the disease through fruitful inter-disciplinary collaborations with the research group of Professor Alberto Ascherio at the Harvard School of Public Health and with the Parkinson Study Group of North America. Caffeine and urate are linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s and/or to a slower rate of disease progression in humans.

The lab explores how caffeine (and other blockers of the adenosine A2A receptor) and urate may be protecting brain cells in Parkinson’s. We employ complementary pharmacological and genetic (e.g., gene knockout) tools to dissect the role of adenosine and urate pathways in the brains of parkinsonian mice. We are also studying the role of adenosine receptors in the disabling motor complications (abnormal involuntary movements known as dyiskinesia) that are sometimes triggered by standard anti-parkinsonian therapy.

Through our well-established translational research network and track record, we expedite transfer of our molecular insights from the laboratory back to the clinic in order to maximize their impact on the lives of Parkinson’s disease patients.

Group Members

Michael A. Schwarzschild, MD, PhDPrincipal Investigator

Michael A. Schwarzschild, MD, PhD
Director, Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory
Professor of Neurology,
Harvard Medical School
Associate in Neurology,
Massachusetts General Hospital

Research Scientists

  • Chen, Xiqun, Instructor
  • Cipriani, Sara, Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Kachroo, Anil, Instructor
  • Wu, Guanhui, Visiting Scientist

Research Assistants & Technicians

  • Desjardins, Cody, Technician
  • McClurg, Lauren, Project Manager/Technician
  • Xu, Yuehang, Senior Technologist

Lab Group Photos 2011

Schwarzschild lab members Xiqun Chen, Sara Cipriani, Anil Kachroo, Guanhui Wu

2010 Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory (MNL) BBQ

Lab Group Photos 2010

2010 Schwarzschild Lab group photo
2010 Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory (MNL) BBQ


Schwarzschild Lab 2010 group photo with Ascherio neuroepidemiology group
2010 Joint Group Retreat with Ascherio neuroepidemiology group


Updated 9/10/2011

Research Projects

Adenosine/Caffeine Project

Models of Neurodegeneration

Using models of neurodegeneration, this part of the project seeks to understand how adenosine A2A receptor antagonists, including caffeine, protect neurons in models of Parkinson’s disease.

Proposed mechanism of symptomatic anti-parkinsonian action of adenosine A2A antagonists

A2A Antagonists Illustration

Schwarzschild, Fuxe, Agnati, Chen & Morelli (2006) TRENDS in Neurosciences

Models of Dyskinesia

Using models of dyskinesia this part of the project looks at how adenosine A2A receptor antagonists may prevent development of dyskinesias.

Taking advantage of the discrete localization of CNS A2A receptors

Schwarzschild, Fuxe, Agnati, Chen & Morelli (2006) TRENDS in Neurosciences (Adapted)

Urate Project

This project explores how genetic and pharmacological manipulation of the urate pathway may reduce neurodegeneration in models of Parkinson’s disease.

Research Positions

Search for current opportunities on the Mass General careers website at or e-mail for a list of current openings.


Selected Publications

  1. Chen JF, Xu K, Petzer JP, Staal R, Xu YH, Beilstein M, Sonsalla PK, Castagnoli K, Castagnoli N Jr, & Schwarzschild MA (2001) Neuroprotection by caffeine and A2A adenosine receptor inactivation in a model of Parkinson's disease.J Neurosci21:RC143:1-6.
  2. Kachroo A, Orlando LR, Grandy DK, Chen JF, Young AB, & Schwarzschild MA. (2005) Interactions between metabotropic glutamate 5 and adenosine A2A receptors in normal and parkinsonian mice.J Neurosci. 25:10414-10409.
  3. Xiao D, Bastia E, Xu YH, Benn CL, Cha JH, Peterson TS, Chen JF & Schwarzschild MA. (2006) Forebrain adenosine A2A receptors contribute to L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine-induced dyskinesia in hemiparkinsonian mice.J Neurosci. 26:13548-13555.
  4. Xu K, Xu Y, Brown-Jermyn D, Chen JF, Ascherio A, Dluzen DE, & Schwarzschild MA. (2006) Estrogen prevents neuroprotection by caffeine in the mouse 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine model of Parkinson's disease.J Neurosci. 26:535-41.
  5. Schwarzschild MA, Schwid SR, Marek K, Watts A, Lang AE, Oakes D, Shoulson I, & Ascherio A, and the Parkinson Study Group PRECEPT Investigators. (2008) Serum urate as a predictor of clinical and radiographic progression in Parkinson’s disease.Arch Neurol65(6):doi:10.1001/archneur.2008.65.6.nct70003.

NCBI PubMed Publications


Contact Us

Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory: Michael A. Schwarzschild, MD, PhD

Building 114, Charlestown Navy Yard

114 16th Street, Room 3002MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseas Charlestown, MA 02129
  • Accessible

Michael A. Schwarzschild, MD, PhD

Lab Phone: 617-726-5714


Lab Phone: 617-724-9611

MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MIND)

Neurology Access Center: 1-855-644-6387

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