Michael A Schwarzschild, M.D., Ph.D.

Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology
Harvard Medical School
Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Physician Investigator (Cl)
Neurology, Mass General Research Institute
MD Harvard Medical School 1990
PhD 1988
adenosine a2 receptor antagonists; antiparkinson agents; brain cells; caffeine; clinical trials; dyiskinesia; gba; lrrk2; neuroprotective agents; parkinson disease; parkinsonian disorders; piperine; receptor adenosine a2a; urate

The Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, under the direction of Michael Schwarzschild, MD PhD, investigates molecular mechanisms in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease in an effort to develop improved therapies for Parkinson’s and related neurodegenerative diseases. We focus on a natural class of compounds known as purines, in particular the role of three purines — adenosine, caffeine and urate — and how targeting them may prevent or slow the brain cell degeneration of Parkinson’s.

The lab is pursuing major epidemiological and clinical clues to the disease through fruitful inter-disciplinary collaborations with the research group of Professor Alberto Ascherio at the Harvard School of Public Health and with the Parkinson Study Group of North America. Caffeine and urate are linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s and/or to a slower rate of disease progression in humans.

The lab explores how caffeine (and other blockers of the adenosine A2A receptor) and urate may be protecting brain cells in Parkinson’s. We employ complementary pharmacological and genetic (e.g., gene knockout) tools to dissect the role of adenosine and urate pathways in the brains of parkinsonian mice. We are also studying the role of adenosine receptors in the disabling motor complications (abnormal involuntary movements known as dyiskinesia) that are sometimes triggered by standard anti-parkinsonian therapy.

Through our well-established translational research network and track record, we expedite transfer of our molecular insights from the laboratory back to the clinic in order to maximize their impact on the lives of Parkinson’s disease patients.