Dr. Mohammad Shahnawaz, PhD


Dr. Mohammad Shahnawaz, PhD

Name of Institution:

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX

Project Title:

Detection of Alpha-Synuclein Oligomers in Blood for the Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease

Investigator Bio:

Dr. Mohammad Shahnawaz received his BSc in Chemistry from Magadh University and MSc in Biochemistry from Jiwaji University in India. In 2008, he earned his PhD degree in protein Biochemistry from Chosun University in the Republic of Korea. In 2009, he joined the University of Texas Health Science Center as a post-doctoral fellow and was promoted to instructor position in 2016. In 2018, he was promoted to Assistant Professor. His research focuses on understanding protein misfolding in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders.


The goal of this project is to develop a biochemical test to detect small amounts of α-synuclein oligomers in blood.


The misfolding and aggregation of α-synuclein in neurons is a key event in the development of PD that begins years or decades before the appearance of motor symptoms. To date however, there is no definite, sensitive and predictive laboratory test available to identify individuals who have started to develop PD pathology, but have not yet manifested motor symptoms. The availability of a test to diagnose pre-motor PD is of utmost importance for the development of disease-modifying or preventive therapies for PD. Recent studies have suggested that α-synuclein clusters or oligomers circulate in biological fluids such as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood, which opens up the possibility that these circulating aggregates could serve as the basis of a diagnostic test for PD.


We have recently adapted an assay called Protein Misfolding Cyclic Amplification (PMCA) for the detection of misfolded α-synuclein oligomers in CSF. The current project will expand the applicability of this technology to detect small amounts of α-synuclein oligomers in blood. We will use well-characterized plasma samples from PD patients, individuals affected with other synucleinopathies, and healthy controls to perfect the assay.

Relevance to Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s disease:

The findings obtained here will lay the foundation for the development of a low cost, non-invasive early diagnostic test for PD.