Digging deeper: our stories

Looking for culprits

In the search for the molecular underpinnings of neurodegenerative diseases, Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center researchers have turned their attention to microRNAs — a group of small RNA molecules recently discovered to exist in human cells. Teaming up to accelerate the pace of work, investigators developed new technologies to study the potential role of these elusive molecules in disease. 


MicroRNAs can reduce the production of certain proteins. Thus, it is possible for microRNAs to impact the proper functioning of certain cells, causing disease. But because of their size and chemical makeup, microRNAs are difficult to study.

In collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease and Molecular Devices Corporation, faculty at the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center’s Advanced Tissue Research Center developed a technique to extract and analyse microRNAs from brain samples of patients with Parkinson’s disease. They will then compare these microRNAs to those molecules found in healthy brains.

About the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center

Established in 2001 by Dr. Joseph Martin (Dean of Harvard Medical School, 1997-2007), the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center is a pioneering biomedical research group focused on ending suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. By drawing on the intellectual strength and proven capability of the Harvard medical community and colleagues throughout the world, the NeuroDiscovery Center has developed a unique approach to understanding and treating these devastating diseases. 

Our focus:

  • Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and other degenerative diseases of the brain.

  • Combining academic creativity with a business-like approach to ensure a focused and efficient effort to advance the search for cures.

  • Accelerating the pace of progress, from scientific discoveries to meaningful patient treatments.

  • Real collaboration across the Harvard Medical community, prominent research centers worldwide and the private sector.

  • Applying discoveries about one neurodegenerative disease to better understand the others. 

Whereas our ultimate goal is simple — to improve the lives of the millions who face the physical, emotional, and economic burden of neurodegenerative diseases — these diseases represent a far too complex and urgent problem for any one group to tackle. To date, we have engaged over 800 researchers in a growing portfolio of outcome-directed research programs. For visionary philanthropists and scientists, participation in the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center's work offers the best hope for progress — please join us!

As of December 2010, the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center has 934 members from various institutions within the Medical area. The chart below lists the primary affiliations of our members: