Sastry Foundation Parkinson’s Disease Research
This program was initiated in 2020 with the selection of Peter A. LeWitt MD, MMedSc as the Sastry Foundation Endowed Chair in Neurology. Dr. LeWitt has previously held an appointment as Professor of Neurology at Wayne State University School of Medicine and, in 2022, as Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology. His extensive career in Parkinson's disease research includes basic neuroscience investigation which has involved animal models of Parkinsonism, testing for brain neurochemical medications in response to Parkinson's disease drugs, and testing of promising therapies. Clinical studies conducted by Dr. LeWitt include multiple studies of symptomatic treatments and disease-modifying therapeutics, investigations of disease-specific and progression-associated biomarkers, and neuroimaging methods, Dr. LeWitt has extensive publications in the peer-reviewed medical literature and in other publications (book chapters, meeting presentations). He has been a national and international educator on Parkinson's disease topics. In the Department of Neurology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, De. LeWitt conducts a clinic devoted to the care of Parkinson's disease patients, where clinical trials of new therapeutics are undergoing testing. He also is director of a movement disorder fellowship program and is an educator for medical students and residents.
Dr. LeWitt's current laboratory activities are based in Scott Hall, where his laboratory program (supports by Sastry Foundation funding and in collaboration with Professor Sokol Todi) supports post-doctoral researcher Wei-Ling Tsou PhD. Current projects include use of Drosophila and induced pluripotent cells to model biochemical changes found in Parkinson's disease. This project is aimed specifically at discovering new interventions that could lessen aggregation of alpha-synuclein, a key brain protein responsible for degeneration of nerve cells in Parkinson's disease. Other laboratory research is investigation diagnostic and disease progression biomarkers. Collaboration with Professor Mark Haacke is developing new ways that MRI can be used in Parkinson's disease care and diagnosis. Funding from the Sastry Foundation gift to Dr. LeWitt's research is contributing to work by Sagar Buch PhD in developing ways to image iron and neuromelanin in the Parkinson's disease brain (two key indicators of this disorder).