GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Researchers at Van Andel Institute continue to make strides in slowing down the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Their latest discovery identifies a “master regulator” that when shut down can prevent damage to the brain.

“Parkinson’s disease is an illness that involved the death of neurons. We’ve found a brand-new target that might impede that death of neurons,” said Dr. Viviane Labrie, an associate professor at Van Andel Institute.

Labrie says the next step is to follow up on their research.

“We identified this master regulator that could cause a lot of molecular changes in brain cells of Parkinson’s patients and now we want to explore that molecular target a little bit more and do some testing with potential therapies that could ameliorate the key features of the disease and also the related symptoms.”

Parkinson’s disease causes neurodegeneration of cells, specifically in parts of the brain that deal with movement.

“We found changes at the molecular level that effect the way genes and ultimately cells work. And we found that a master regulator of these changes was a protein called TET2. What TET2 does is impact the survival of neurons and also effects inflammation in the brain. We know inflammation is a very important part of the biology of Parkinson’s disease,” Labrie said.

More information on how Van Andel Institute is working to slow the progression of Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases can be found online.