My PD Story

Rafiq headshot

Rafiq Huda, PhD

Targeting Brain Cells That Cause Movement Disorders in Parkinson’s

Rafiq Huda, PhD, of Rutgers University received a Parkinson’s Foundation George GKaufman Impact Award to identify a potential therapeutic target for the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Using cutting-edge technology, he will examine how an understudied group of brain cells called astrocytes contributes to motor dysfunction in PD. Astrocytes are an important component of brain circuits that regulate nerve cell processing.

“Astrocytes are fascinating cells that can do much more in the brain than they currently get credit for,” said Dr. Huda. “My hope is that what we discover in this basic science project will help establish astrocytes as a novel therapeutic target for PD.”

Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. Dr. Huda’s study will test whether astrocytes coordinate this network of activity in the striatum, a part of the brain that integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate movement. Dysfunction of the striatum, which is affected by the hallmark impairment of the production a brain chemical called dopamine in PD, is a key contributor to the disease’s motor symptoms. It is not known how the loss of dopamine affects the function of astrocytes.

Dr. Huda’s lab will focus on clarifying how astrocytes are affected and how their function impacts neuronal elements of the striatum. This research will work to explore how astrocytes contribute to motor symptoms of PD.  

“I wanted to focus my research efforts on topics that are directly relevant for improving the human condition,” said Dr. Huda. “Parkinson’s, and movement disorders generally, impact a significant number of people. Given my background in movement control, I figured I could make the most impact by focusing my lab’s energy on studying how dysfunction of brain processes underlie PD and other movement disorders.”

Of his Impact Award, Dr. Huda said, “The Award has already had a huge impact on the trajectory of my career. Going in new research directions is always very risky, especially with untested ideas. Besides providing financial support, receiving feedback from established and eminent PD researchers on our ideas was instrumental in sharpening our thinking about how to approach this project.”

Back to Top