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2020-03 29

[Academics][Researcher of the Month] A Cause of Parkinson’s Disease Recently Discovered

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. The cause of PD is still unknown, other than its suggested correlation with genetic and environmental factors. Professor Lee Sang-hun (College of Medicine) has recently come up with a model that supports the hereditary cause of disease. Professor Lee Sang-hun's (College of Medicine) research presents a new clue about the cause of Parkinson's disease (PD). PD is found to be associated with the degeneration of midbrain-type dopamine (mDA) neurons. Lee’s research team found out that the RNA-binding protein Lin28 plays a role in neuronal stem cell development, and that the gene mutation of Lin28 causes the degeneration of mDA neurons. Also, the experiment showed that when the Lin28 mutation was corrected, the symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease disappeared. Lee came up with an in vitro human embryonic stem cell/human induced pluripotent stem cell‐based disease model. The model proposes that the Lin28 R192G mutation leads to developmental defects and modification of Lin28 opens up the possibility of rescuing the patient from the disease. “People normally think that PD is deeply related to one’s age,” said Lee. “This research suggests that it is also highly likely to be a genetic defect. This finding will provide a more accurate diagnosis model.” Lee's team found out that an RNA-binding protein called Lin28 plays a role in the manifestation and treatment of PD. (Photo courtesy of Lee) Researchers spent four years trying to identify the distinct characteristics that two young PD patients shared with each other. The team conducted numerous biological trials to prove their findings. The model was a reward for their ceaseless efforts, taking them a step closer to finally identifying the cause of PD. However, there is still no cure for PD or for many other neurodegenerative diseases. Lee said he intends to develop a practical treatment during his last five years of tenure. “I am now working on projects with bio-venture companies,” explained Lee. “I hope my research enables a more pragmatic approach in overcoming neurodegenerative diseases.” Lee plans to work on pragmatic treatments during his last five years of tenure. Lee asked students to be more ambitious in deciding what they long to achieve. “He who works hard will get the chance to show himself,” advised the professor, leading by example for all young scholars. Oh Kyu-jin