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Photo courtesy of Dr. David Park

The University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute recently received a $2.5-million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research that its researchers will use to test for a relationship between three chronic diseases.

The researchers, led by Drs. Michael Schlossmacher and David Park, are studying a potential link between Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and leprosy. The five-year grant will allow them to test the theory that there is an immunological link between them.

Although the diseases have very different symptoms, there appears to be a common factor: the gene LRRK2.

“Evidence … suggests that particular variants of the LRRK2 can result in abnormal immune response and subsequently lead to the development of Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, or leprosy,” the U of O said in a release.

“We know that it is somehow important, but we have no idea why,” Park said in an interview.

Park is the director of the research institute and a professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

“The hope is that targeting the immune system is a much more inimitable way to tackle the issue,” he said.

So far, researchers have not been able to attribute any sort of causal relationship between the mutations in the gene LRRK2 or any of the three illnesses.

The institute will hold a Brain Health Awareness Week beginning Sept. 22, in collaboration with the City of Ottawa, where experts will present and discuss numerous issues surrounding neurological research.