This website comes after a long and successful summer working on campus at The College of William and Mary under the tutelage of Dr. Randolph Coleman, efforts that ultimately led to a final research paper that was submitted for review and, hopefully, eventual publication during the final week of the summer. These scientific endeavors were an extension of the previous efforts from undergraduate students (both current and graduated) to qualitatively model the inner-workings of an afflicted neuron during neurodegeneration via computational techniques (more to be discussed and clarified below).

Given the extensive amount of background work in this project, accompanied with ongoing research throughout the 2009-2010 academic year, this website serves to display all our efforts in Parkinson’s disease-related research in an intelligible and organized manner. Information on our past accomplishments, current studies, future endeavors, and other relevant topics may be found below, and as the study progresses more information will become available to readers.


Dr. Randolph Coleman’s Research Groups

The Summer 2008 research group in Parkinson’s disease generated substantial publicity and respect by ultimately publishing their findings in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods (Sass et al., 2009). It is apparent this field of study of rapidly-growing, and similar efforts are sprouting up everywhere in the attempt to better understand biochemical systems through various means of analysis.

Dr. Coleman also heads numerous other undergraduate research groups, each focusing on a specific neurodegenerative disease, which includes, in addition to Parkinson’s disease: Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s, and Prion Disease.

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Theoretical Basis for Computational Techniques in Biochemistry

The basis for these computational studies was assembled upon Biochemical Systems Theory (BST), a technique of mathematical analysis for biochemical systems that is formulated from numerous power-laws that characterize the differential activities of biological networks. In short, biological activities on a large scale may be modeled using a minimal amount of necessary information: initial concentrations and their time-derivatives. BST argues that by simply knowing a system’s predisposition (initial concentration) and how this system changes over time (time-derivative), researchers may generate accurate models of these networks.

Before delving too far into BST during the introductory post, I have supplied general background information and supporting links that may be found here. Although a thorough knowledge of BST is not necessary to understand this study, I should remark upon a few concepts that were, and still are, integral in this study.

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Summer 2009 Endeavors

The Summer 2009 research ultimately began midway through the Spring 2009 academic semester, when I began to research the role that neurocellular iron may play in the onset and progression of PD. This was part of the Chemistry 320 (Introduction to Chemical Research) course mandated by the Chemistry Department for all undergraduate Chemistry majors. The subject, iron-related neurotoxicity, was an area undeveloped in Dr. Coleman’s PD group’s model at that point in time. Given this notion, along with the purported implications iron-mishandling possesses in PD, the topic seemed to be a logical next step.

Thus, after completing Chemistry 320 with Dr. Coleman as a research adviser, I was sufficiently knowledgeable in iron-related pathogeneses for PD and began my summer research with these concepts as my focal point. A full review of my summer research may be found here .

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Future Research Prospects

Within the near future, this group study will hope to incorporate the following systems into the general PD model:

– Glutathione synthesis (phosphate pentose pathway).
– Metabolic processes for zinc, calcium, aluminum, manganese, and other elements as they arise.
– Mitochondrial activities, specifically to the Complex I

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The opportunity to remain on campus during the Summer of 2009, for which I am greatly indebted, was made possible by the Llanso-Sherman Scholarship for Pre-Medical Research, The Charles Center, The College of William and Mary.

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Sass MB, Lorenz AL, Green RL, Coleman RA. A pragmatic approach to biochemical systems theory applied to an alpha-synuclein-based model of Parkinson’s disease. J Neurosci Methods. 2009;178:366-77.

Savageau, MA. Biochemical systems analysis. I. Some mathematical properties of the rate law for the component enzymatic reactions. J. Theor. Biol., 1969a;25:365-9.

Savageau, MA. Biochemical systems analysis. II. The steady-state solutions for an n-pool system using a power-law approximation. J. Theor. Biol., 1969b;25:370-9.

Savageau, MA. Biochemical systems analysis. 3. Dynamic solutions using a power-law approximation. J. Theor. Biol., 1970;26:215-26.

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Research Links

– Supplementary Information for Parkinson’s Disease
– Supplementary Information for Biochemical Systems Theory
– Summer 2009 Summary and Results
– Future Research Prospects

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Published in: on August 25, 2009 at 8:26 pm Comments (0)