Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) and its Role in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and Levodopa-induced Dyskinesias

An Interview With Dr. Krithi Irmady, an APDA Researcher Studying RNA & Parkinson’s

Multinational researcher group experimenting in the lab.

Our A Closer Look blog is designed to educate, inform, and inspire you through a variety of topics and insights about Parkinson’s disease (PD). One way we do that is through our Interview with APDA Researchers series within this blog so you can get a closer look at some of the dedicated APDA-funded researchers who are working tirelessly to understand this disease.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month and the important contributions women have made, it seems fitting today to introduce you to Dr. Krithi Irmady. She is a current recipient of APDA’s most prestigious research award, the George C. Cotzias Fellowship. This Fellowship is a career development award, providing three years of research funding to a physician-scientist at the start of his/her career.

Krithi Irmady, MD, PhD

A Q&A with Dr. Irmady about her ongoing research

Dr. Irmady is working to understand ribonucleic acid (RNA), a key molecule in the body that acts as a bridge between DNA and proteins, and its role in the development of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and levodopa-induced dyskinesias. We asked her some questions about her work:

Q: What is the overarching goal of your APDA-funded research? What do you hope to find out?

A: My research aims to uncover the molecular processes underlying the clinical symptoms of PD, including why some patients develop more severe levodopa-induced dyskinesia, a potential side effect of the most common medication given to patients with PD. At a fundamental level, my focus lies on RNA, a crucial molecule bridging DNA and protein. However, RNA isn’t simply a passive messenger; it possesses its own independent life that ultimately influences the proteins made within a cell. We hope to understand how RNAs are altered in PD to affect the nerve cell function. Ultimately, we seek to understand how these changes contribute to movement-related issues in patients with PD.

Q: Could you describe how you perform your studies?

A: We investigate the intricate changes occurring in the brain cells of individuals with PD who generously donated their brains to science after their passing. We meticulously examine the alterations in RNA and protein levels within these brains, contrasting them with donor brains from individuals who were neurologically healthy. We particularly focus on changes pertinent to nerve cells of the brain. We further confirm the importance of these discoveries by experimentally using nerve cells cultivated in a controlled environment in the laboratory.  Through this multi-tiered approach, we gain deeper insights into the molecular processes involved in PD.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what you have found out so far?

A: We have uncovered numerous RNA alterations in the brains of individuals with PD compared to those from neurologically healthy donors. These changes not only involve shifts in RNA levels but also in their diversity, indicating the potential for a single RNA to produce multiple types of proteins with varied functions within the cell. Many of the RNAs identified to be altered in the PD brains are expected to play crucial roles in maintaining the normal functioning of nerve cells. Their dysfunction could therefore lead to movement problems, including levodopa-induced dyskinesia. Additionally, we have identified certain master regulators of RNAs, which could potentially influence multiple other RNAs in PD. Subsequent research will focus on confirming whether experimentally manipulating these regulators could impact brain function.

Q: What fuels your passion for research?

A: My passion for research is fueled by two key motivators. First, there is a compelling need to help patients affected by PD. Understanding the disease’s fundamental mechanisms is crucial to discovering new modes of treatment that can improve their prognosis. Secondly, there is the profound satisfaction derived from making original discoveries. Despite the myriad obstacles in science, the promise of breakthroughs is ever-present. I am fortunate to be in a profession where I can walk into work with an anticipation of what new discovery might happen today!

Tips and Takeaways 

  • Dr. Krithy Irmady is an APDA-funded researcher investigating the role of RNA in PD and levodopa-induced dyskinesias 
  • By understanding how the RNAs in a PD brain are different than those in a non-PD brain, Dr. Irmady hopes to uncover new treatment avenues
  • You can learn more about Dr. Irmady’s work, as well as all of the researchers APDA is currently funding, in the What We Fund section of our website. 
  • You can also read past interviews with other APDA-funded researchers, including Dr. Abby OlsenDr. Stephan Grimaldi, and Dr. Edward Griffin, and enjoy a “Where Are They Now” look at some past APDA-funded researchers. 
  • APDA is able to fund researchers like Dr. Irmady because of the generous donations we receive from dedicated people like you. If you would like to support critical work like this, please consider making a donation of any size today. Thank you. 

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