My primary research interest is on multiple system atrophy (MSA) and Parkinson's disease (PD). Both diseases are neurodegenerative. They are caused by aggregation of a protein named α-synuclein (AS). In PD, AS aggregates in neurons in formations called Lewy bodies, whereas in MSA the protein aggregates in oligodendroglial cells in glial cytoplasmic inclusions. Both types of aggregates are occurring in the same areas of the brains which makes the clinical manifestations of these diseases similar. No biological test exist that can diagnose or differentiate between PD and MSA. It is therefore difficult to distinguish between PD and MSA in an early stage of the disease. Thus, it is therefore highly relevant to identify biological markers that can aid in the diagnosis and differentiation of PD and MSA.
So far my research has focused on the expression of neurotrophins related to the survival of neurons and glial cells. As stated above, these cell types are thought to be differently affected in PD and MSA. I am currently expanding this research to also include cytokines. Cytokines are able to induce inflammation through recruitment and activation of microglia cells in the brain. In order to obtain new insights into disease etiology, state-of-the-art technology such as epigenetic whole-genome association studies, proteomics, and multiplex assays are being assessed. My aim is to be able to present an array of biomarkers that enables clinicians to diagnose and differentiate PD and MSA through a non-invasive procedure such as blood sampling.