Conti, Michael A. (2013 - 2016)

Michael is in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  He joined the training program in 2013.  His research mentor is Dr. Carl Koehler.  He received a B.S. degree in 2010 from Boston College.

Mentor: Dr. Carla Koehler

Research project:

The inability to remove defective mitochondria is a contributing factor to Parkinson's disease.  In healthy mitochondria, a cytosolic protein Pink1 is transported through the mitochondrial membrane to be degraded inside the mitochondria.  With damaged mitochondria, Pink1 remains stable on the outer membrane facing the cytosol, and subsequently recruits Parkin to stimulate mitochondrial turnover via mitophagy.  When this mitochondrial quality control system becomes dysfunctional, damaged mitochondria accumulate, leading to Parkinson's disease (PD).  Preliminary results from the Koehler lab have indicated a variety of small molecules that may target damaged mitochondria for removal via acceleration of the Pink1/Park pathway.  My research program will focus on developing small molecule libraries and characterization of these molecules in SAR studies, identifying their specific targets, and exploring additional models such as zebrafish and mice to determine if the molecules have an application in PD biology.