life sciences

Brain protein could be key to metabolism

Posted 1/16/12

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – An assistant professor in the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy has discovered in his research that a brain protein, called RGS-2, may play a role in regulating body weight.

Abraham Kovoor had been studying RGS9-2 and its relationship to the involuntary, random and repetitive movements that are side effects of drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia. While studying these side effects, called dyskinesia, discovered that the brain protein also plays a role in metabolism management.

“Our research shows that the striatum, through RGS9-2, has a role in regulating body weight that is independent of the motivation, movement and reward responses,” Kovoor said. “We have identified a new gene that likely regulates weight gain through metabolism.”

Results of Kovoor’s research were published in the November issue of PLoS One, an interactive open-access, peer-reviewed scientific and medical research journal.

Kovoor and his collaborators found that humans with a gene variation that could reduce RGS9-2 levels had a significantly higher body mass index.

Surprised by the discovery, Kovoor said he and his team have been studying RGS9-2 and its role in the movement side effects of drug therapy for Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia for almost a decade.

In fact, a company he established, Kovogen LLC, now based in Mystic, Conn., is developing methods for predicting which individuals are more likely to get these irreversible and debilitating side effects so that drug treatment can be optimized and tailored for individual patients.

“When you see Michael J. Fox continuously weaving and shaking, his movements are actually dyskinesia, a reaction to the medication used to treat his Parkinson’s,” Kovoor said. “Many people mistakenly assume that the shaking is a result of his Parkinson’s disease, but the disease itself causes rigidity. Anti-psychotic drugs, which are used to treat schizophrenia, also cause similar involuntary movements that are irreversible.”

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