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New discovery about Parkinson's at the Montreal Neurological Institute

Montreal, August 1, 2006. As a world-class medical centre, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNI) at McGill University is able to treat patients with Parkinson's and make important discoveries about the disease all under the same roof.

Dr. Edward Fon, a neurologist and researcher at the MNI, studies Parkinson's disease (PD), a neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle stiffness and tremor and prevents people from controlling their movements in a normal manner. PD is estimated to affect about 100,000 Canadians.

By studying defects in the genes of patients with inherited forms of PD, Dr. Fon and his team have learned about the cellular mechanisms that are involved in the death of dopamine nerve cells, which is the main characteristic of the disease. In a recent study that was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and published in the prestigious journal Nature Cell Biology, Dr. Fon and his colleagues made a new discovery about parkin, a gene that is responsible for a common inherited form of PD. "We have found that parkin plays a novel role in a signaling pathway that controls nerve cell survival," explains Dr. Fon. "This new function is completely different from the role parkin was traditionally thought to play. Moreover, this pathway--called the Akt signaling pathway--has recently been linked to other neurodegenerative diseases in addition to PD. This new-found interaction between Akt and parkin suggests that PD and other neurodegenerative disorders may share certain key mechanisms of cell death, which now gives us a whole new set of potential treatment targets."

Along with his research, Dr. Fon is also a clinician at the Movement Disorder Clinic of the MNI, which provides the best in health care and services to people with PD across the country. In fact, it was recently awarded a Clinical Assistance Grant from Parkinson Society Canada for its excellence in cli
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Contact: Amy Butcher
amy.butcher@mcgill.ca
514-398-3376
Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital
1-Aug-2006


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