Michael J. Fox Furthers Parkinson’s Research With $24 Million Donation


By Mandy Froelich / Truth Theory

Regardless of who you are, your present socio-economic status, your hopes and dreams in life,  and the stage of your current relationship, there is something you have in common with everyone else in the world: you were born with nothing, and you will die with nothing.

At first, this truth might sound depressing. However, it is can actually be a beautiful realization. If you cannot take anything with you after passing, including money and fame, there is nothing preventing you from donating toward causes and efforts that you align with. Perhaps it is partly for this reason that Michael J. Fox donated $24 million to further Parkinson’s research.

GoodNewsNetwork reports that Fox recently announced that his foundation is donating over $24 million in grants for researching and treating Parkinson’s disease. The actor established the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research because it is a cause he aligns with. Shortly after retiring from the silver screen in 2000, the philanthropist was diagnosed with the affliction.

The foundation has since become one of the world’s largest and most acclaimed nonprofit for Parkinson’s research and advocacy. Over the past 19 years, the charity has funded more than $800 million in Parkinson’s research. The new donation of $24 million will be distributed in the form of 127 new grant awards. The projects vary but seek to understand, treat, diagnose, and measure the progression of the disease.

One newsworthy project which received a grant from the foundation is a New Zealand research initiative from the University of Auckland. The researches are investigating the genetics of Parkinson’s disease, reportedly “from an unusual and promising angle.”

Mutations in the gene glucocerebrosidase beta acid (or GBA) are the most common genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s disease. Approximately 6 million people have this mutation and, as a result, the disease.  Associate professor of molecular science Justin O’Sullivan is working with a team at the university’s Liggins Institute to use a 3D genome-mapping tool which will, hopefully, reveal the connections of GBA to other genes. The researchers suspect the gene may be acting as “DNA switches” and disrupting the function of other genes the mutation comes into contact with.

As GoodNewsNetwork reports, “O’Sullivan and his team are at the forefront of international efforts to show that these spatial connections can change the functioning of genes and potentially play a role in a wide range of diseases.”

O’Sullivan explained:

“Most research into GBA’s role in Parkinson’s focuses on whether GBA mutations hamper the activity of a particular enzyme, a member of the cell’s ‘cleaning crew’ that degrades damaged or surplus cell parts.”

“We’re coming at it from a totally different angle – we’re looking into whether ‘switches’ inside GBA mutations turn up or down the functioning of other genes that they come into contact with. We think some of the more unusual findings about GBA might be able to be explained if it has connections to other genes.”

“If we are right, we will identify a network of interrelated Parkinson’s genes. This may help advance research efforts for therapies, and bring together previously confusing or unrecognized connections.”

“For us, this grant is an amazing opportunity to investigate a disorder that has a huge impact on people. We hope to make insights that ultimately make a real difference to patients.”

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