The Morris K. Udall Parkinson Disease
Centers of Excellence were established by the National
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
in 1997, in honor of former congressman Morris K. Udall
of Utah, who died of Parkinson’s disease.
UCLA Morris K. Udall Parkinson Disease Center of
Excellence is part of the multidisciplinary
Center for the Study of Parkinson’s Disease, with
the specific goal of elucidating the mechanisms of
cellular dysfunction in animal and cellular
models, as well as in patients, ultimately leading to
the development of more effective treatments for PD.
The main focus of the Udall Center
at UCLA is to uncover the cellular and molecular events
preceding the death of dopaminergic neurons in
the substantia nigra (the cause of Parkinson’s disease),
which is expected to reveal targets for therapeutic
intervention. Utilizing animal models with mutations in
genes that are known to cause PD in humans, our
scientists are able to look for clues about what goes
wrong, both within the cells, and at the behavioral
level. These basic research studies are complemented by
epidemiological studies, which also evaluate the
progression of motor and non-motor symptoms in patients,
as well as whether these symptoms are impacted by
behavioral, social, and environmental factors.
Some of the issues being addressed
at the Center include: Are there any non-motor symptoms
of the disease which manifest prior to motor symptoms,
and could they serve as an early diagnosis tool? What
happens to normal cellular function when there is a
specific disease-causing mutation in those cells? How do
environmental factors such as diet, stress, and exposure
to toxins, affect the onset and progression of disease?
Can we target any specific cellular pathways to prevent
the progression of disease?
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