Research Projects

Is HDAC4 protein a potential drug target in Parkinson’s disease?

Awarded to:
Prof Richard Wade-Martins

Current award:

University of Oxford

1 November 2019 - 31 October 2020

Full project name:

Targeting HDAC4 in Parkinson's disease






Researchers in Oxford are investigating a potential drug target, opening the door to a new treatment avenue for Parkinson’s disease.

Dementia is not a disease in itself, instead dementia is a word used to describe a group of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly.

While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, diseases including Parkinson’s also result in the condition.

In Parkinson’s, a group of nerve cells that produce a chemical called dopamine are damaged.

This pioneering project led by Prof Richard Wade-Martins will be investigating whether drugs targeting a protein called histone deacetylase 4 (HDAC4) can protect these nerve cells.

This will lead to opportunities to develop new drugs or repurpose existing ones, bringing us closer to a life-changing treatment that could prevent or slow the loss of brain cells in Parkinson’s.

Prof Wade-Martins and his team will work closely with our Alzheimer’s Research UK Oxford Drug Discovery Institute, ensuring that any findings go straight into the hands of drug discovery experts.

What will they do?

Prof Wade-Martins and his team will use an exceptional resource of stem cells created using a Nobel-prize winning experimental technique.

Using stem cells donated by people with Parkinson’s, they are able to grow brain cells in the laboratory that have many of the same features as those found in the brains of the people they’re trying to help.

Using these cells, the team will investigate whether the HDAC4 protein holds promise as a potential drug target for all forms of Parkinson’s.

There is not just one genetic cause of Parkinson’s, instead a number of different genetic and environmental factors can affect our risk of getting the condition.

This means that the underlying cause of Parkinson’s disease is different for different people.

Understanding if HDAC4 malfunction is a common trait will determine whether drugs targeting HDAC4 could be broadly used, or whether they could be an option for personalised medicine for people with certain types of Parkinson’s.

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Dementia is one of the world’s greatest challenges. It steals lives and leaves millions heartbroken. But we can change the future.