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Rachel Furlong wins Best poster at New Horizons Research Conference

16 Dec 2016
Rachel Furlong receives best poster award from Prof Mary Horgan, Dean/Head of School of Medicine UCC, at New Horizons Research Conference

Ms. Rachel Furlong won first prize for her poster presentation "PINK1 activation of PI3-Kinase/Akt – understanding mechanisms which lead to Parkinson’s disease” at the New Horizon’s Research Conference held in University College Cork on the 8th of December 2016. Rachel currently a PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Cora O’Neill and Prof Aideen Sullivan, has just completed her first year in the School of Biochemistry & Cell Biology and department of Anatomy & Neuroscience.

This research is focused on the role the protein PINK1 plays in cell survival and how loss of PINK1 function can cause early onset Parkinson’s disease. Aberrant activity of the key cell survival signalling pathway PI3-kinase/Akt is strongly implicated in Parkinson's disease. Akt activation is reduced in the PD brain and many PD-causing genes, including PINK1 reduce Akt signalling. This poster showed that PINK1 is acting as a major modulator of Akt activation, and for the first time that PINK1 was regulating the localisation and trafficking of PIP3 (phosphatidylinositol(3,4,5)-trisphosphate) a lipid whose increased abundance at the plasma membrane is essential for Akt activation. The aim of this project is to further elucidate the mechanism by which PINK1 is regulating Akt activation to increase the understanding of Parkinson’s disease and improve diagnostics and therapies.

Co-authors and contributors to the work are Dr Andrew Lindsay, Prof Aideen Sullivan and Dr Cora O’Neill. The work is funded by the Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme.

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