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Past Funded Grants

The Parkinson's Foundation has funded hundreds of millions of dollars in research and support services. Funded projects cover a wide range of areas important to the study of Parkinson's disease (PD). The Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board peer-review and select each grant. In addition to this grant funding, the Parkinson's Foundation continues funding the Parkinson's Outcomes Project; the largest clinical study of its kind that is currently tracking 10,000 people with Parkinson's who receive care at Centers of Excellence across the United States and internationally.

2016 Research Grants

The Parkinson's Foundation grants are part of our strategy to invest in leaders in science, health care and the patient community and then mobilize those leaders to work together toward the cure for Parkinson's. The grants below represent our 2016 investments.

Parkinson's Foundation Research Centers: $1.6 Million

Allow talented scientists to collaborate on basic, translational and clinical research.

Columbia University Medical Center
Un Jung Kang, M.D., PI
Roy N. Alcalay, M.D., M.Sc.
Robert E. Burke, M.D.
Lorraine N. Clark, Ph.D.
Stanley Fahn, M.D.
Blair Ford, M.D.
Jill S. Goldman, M.S., M.Phil.
Lloyd A. Greene, Ph.D.
Sheng-Han Kuo, M.D.
Oren Levy, M.D., Ph.D.
Karen Marder, M.D., M.P.H.
Eugene Mosharov, Ph.D.
Serge Przedborski, M.D., Ph.D.
Seth L. Pullman, M.D.
Yaakov Stern, Ph.D.
David Sulzer, Ph.D.
Jean Paul G. Vonsattel, M.D.
Cheryl H. Waters, M.D.
Ai Yamamoto, Ph.D.

Rush University Medical Center
Christopher G. Goetz, M.D., PI
Brandon R. Barton, M.D., M.S.
Bryan A. Bernard, Ph.D.
Cynthia L. Comella, M.D.
Jennifer G. Goldman, M.D., M.S.
Deborah A. Hall, M.D., Ph.D.
Katie Kompoliti, M.D.
Jeffrey H. Kordower, Ph.D.
Leo Verhagen-Metman, M.D., Ph.D.
T. Celeste Napier, Ph.D.
Kalipada Pahan, Ph.D.
Glenn T. Stebbins, Ph.D.
Dustin R. Wakeman, Ph.D.

Parkinson's Foundation Advancing Parkinson's Treatments Grants: $317,875

Facilitate the movement of treatments from "bench to bedside."

Innovations Awards ($150,000)

Parkinson Study Group: Advancing Clinical Research
Hubert Fernandez, M.D., and Michael Schwarzschild, M.D., Ph.D., Cleveland Clinic and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School

Parkinson's Foundation Parkinson's Prevalence Project: $50,000

Parkinson's Prevalence Data Analysis
Parkinson's Foundation

Meeting Sponsorship: $88,375

The Disease Modification in Early Parkinson's Disease Consortium | $15,000
(In partnership with the American Parkinson Disease Association)
David Charles, M.D., and Mallory Hacker, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

Dystonia in Parkinson's Disease ($20,000)

William T. Dauer, M.D., University of Michigan

Non-pharmaceutical Ways of Maintaining Cognitive Function in Parkinson's: ($20,000)

Jennifer G. Goldman, M.D., M.S., Rush University Medical Center

Third Global Force PD: Cell-Based Therapies ($15,000)

Jeffrey H. Kordower, Ph.D., and Lorenz Studer, M.D., Rush University Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Second Palliative Care in Parkinson's ($18,375)

Keiran Tuck, M.B.B.S., Julie Carter, R.N., M.S., A.N.P., and Benzi Kluger, M.D., M.S., Oregon Health & Science University and University of Colorado

PAIR Leadership Awards: $29,500

Meaningful Cognitive Outcomes in PD ($5,000)

Jared Benge, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.-C.N., Baylor Scott & White Health

Enhancing Patient Engagement in PD Mental Health Research ($5,000)

Roseanne D. Dobkin, Ph.D., Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Impact of Exercise on Fatigue, Anxiety and Depression in PD ($9,500)

Mary S. Feldman, D.O., Dartmouth College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Parkinson's Disease Outreach and Education to Underserved Communities ($5,000)

Jacqueline Rick, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

The Ecological MOod TrackEr (EMOTE) App in Parkinson's Disease: Filling the Unmet Need ($5,000)

Alit Stark-Inbar, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

PDF Fellowship and Career Development Awards | $1.17 Million

Prepare leaders in Parkinson's research and clinical practice.

Clinical Training Fellowships ($460,000)

Columbia University Medical Center
Deepak Gupta, M.D.
Devin Hall, M.D.
Lan Luo, M.D.*
Sarah O'Shea, M.D.
Miriam Sklerov, M.D.**

Rush University Medical Center
Meagan Bailey, M.D.*
Avram Fraint, M.D.

Stanley Fahn Junior Faculty Awards: $900,000

High Throughput in Vivo Screens for Targeted Parkinson's Disease Gene Therapies
James Dahlman, Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology

Parkinson's Genetic Risk Factors in Latino Populations
Ignacio Fernandez Mata, Ph.D., University of Washington

Direct Pathway Striatal Activity in Dyskinesia
Alexandra Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships: $500,000

Dynamic Interaction Between Striatal Dopaminergic and Cholinergic System in Regulation of Beta-band Oscillations as Mechanisms Underlying PD Pathophysiology
Daigo Homma, Ph.D., Mentor: Ann Graybiel, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Investigating the Function of Mitochondrial Derived Vesicles in Neurons and Their Role in PD
Rosalind Roberts, D.Phil., Mentor: Edward Fon, M.D., McGill University

Loss of Glucocerebrosidase Increases Dopaminergic Neuronal Vulnerability by Impairing Autophagic Flux
Emily Rocha, Ph.D., Mentor: J. Timothy Greenamyre, M.D., Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Alpha-synuclein Mediated Toxicity in the Aged Rat Brain Molecular Mechanism of the Nucleus
Ivette Martinez Sandoval, Ph.D., Mentor: Timothy Collier, Ph.D., Michigan State University

Thalamostriatal Adaptations in Parkinson's
Asami Tanimura, Ph.D., Mentor: D. James Surmeier, Ph.D., Northwestern University

Collaborative Fellowships: $102,500

Parkinson's Foundation-ABF Clinician-Scientist Development Award ($52,500)

(In partnership with the American Brain Foundation)
Parkin Overexpression as a Therapeutic Strategy**
Amber Van Laar, M.D., Mentor: J. Timothy Greenamyre, M.D., Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Parkinson's Foundation-PSG Mentored Clinical Research Award ($50,000)

(In partnership with the Parkinson Study Group)
Cerebellar Morphologic and Functional MRI Measures as a Biomarker of Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson's Disease
Baijayanta Maiti, M.D., Ph.D., Mentors: Joel Perlmutter, M.D., and Steven Petersen, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis

Parkinson's Foundation-APDA Summer Student Fellowships ($60,000)

(In partnership with the American Parkinson Disease Association)

Identifying Elements of the Transcriptional Regulatory Network of PARIS (ZNF746) Involved in Alpha-synuclein-Induced Neurodegeneration
Preston Ge, Mentor: Ted Dawson, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University

The Interaction of Parkinson's Disease Gene FBXO7 with Bag2
Dima Hage, Mentor: David Park, Ph.D., University of Ottawa

DBH-ASYN Mouse Model, Effect of Inflammation in Gastrointestinal System
Kiana Khosravian, Mentor: Malú Tansey, Ph.D., Emory University

The Role of the ESCRT Complex in a Vesicular Trafficking Pathway from Mitochondria to Lysosomes
Sydney Lee, Mentor: Edward Fon, M.D., McGill University

REM Sleep Without Atonia Signatures Help Distinguish Between Synucleinopathy Disorders
Stuart McCarter, Mentor: Erik St. Louis, M.D., Mayo Clinic

In Vivo Optical Measurement of Direct and Indirect Path Projection Neuron Activity in a PD Rodent Model with Treatment of L-DOPA and Cannabinoid Antagonists
Rachel Mikofsky, Mentor: David Sulzer, Ph.D., Columbia University Medical Center

Relevance of Amino Acid Charge/Polarity in New Familial Mutants of Alpha-synuclein
Emily Ong, Mentor: Shubhik DebBurman, Ph.D., Lake Forest College

Impact of Inflammation on Alpha-synuclein Expression in the Colonic Enteric Nervous System
Henry Resnikoff, Mentor: Marina Emborg. M.D., Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Association Between Water Source and Incidental Parkinson's Disease
Maya Silver, Mentor: Brad Racette, M.D., Washington University

Investigation of Dopamine Neuron Degeneration as a Consequence of Microbiome-Derived Bacteria
Samuel Stanley, Mentor: Kim Caldwell, Ph.D., University of Alabama

Parkinson's Disease Penetrance in Obligate Carriers of SMPD1 Mutations
Adina Wise, Mentor: Roy Alcalay, M.D., M.S., Columbia University Medical Center

High Angular Resolution Diffusion Imaging Correlates of Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson's Disease
Kali Xu, Mentor: Kathleen Poston, M.D., M.S., Stanford University School of Medicine

* Denotes a second year of funding ** Denotes third year of funding

2015 Research Grants

In addition to our Investigator Awards, we also funded more than 40 research grants in 2015 as part of our strategy to solve, treat and end Parkinson's disease (PD).

Our Scientific Advisory Board and people with PD who bring knowledge of living with the disease and a deep understanding of which problems need solutions, helped select the research we invested in. The board determines what research is likely to improve the lives and futures of people living with PD.

Research Centers: $1.6 Million

Our Research Centers allow talented scientists to collaborate on basic, translational and clinical research.

Columbia University Medical Center
Un Jung Kang, M.D., PI
Roy N. Alcalay, M.D., M.Sc.
Robert E. Burke, M.D.
Lorraine N. Clark, Ph.D.
Stanley Fahn, M.D.
Blair Ford, M.D.,
Jill S. Goldman, M.S., M.Phil.
Lloyd A. Greene, Ph.D.
Sheng-Han Kuo, M.D.
Oren Levy, M.D., Ph.D.
Karen Marder, M.D., M.P.H.
Pietro Mazzoni, M.D., Ph.D.
Eugene Mosharov, Ph.D.
Serge Przedborski, M.D., Ph.D.
Seth L. Pullman, M.D., F.R.C.P.C.
Yaakov Stern, Ph.D.
David Sulzer, Ph.D.
Jean Paul  G. Vonsattel, M.D.
Cheryl H. Waters, M.D., F.R.C.P.C.
Ai Yamamoto, Ph.D.

Rush University Medical Center
Christopher G. Goetz, M.D., PI
Brandon R. Barton, M.D., M.S.
Bryan A. Bernard, Ph.D.
Cynthia L. Comella, M.D.
Jennifer G. Goldman, M.D., M.S.
Deborah A. Hall, M.D., Ph.D.
Katie Kompoliti, M.D.
Jeffrey H. Kordower, Ph.D.
Leo Verhagen-Metman, M.D., Ph.D.
T. Celeste Napier, Ph.D.
Kalipada Pahan, Ph.D.
Kathleen M. Shannon, M.D.
Glenn T. Stebbins, Ph.D.
Dustin R. Wakeman, Ph.D.

Fellowship and Career Development Awards: $983,000

These prepare leaders in Parkinson's research and clinical practice.

Clinical Training Fellowships: $390,500

Columbia University Medical Center
Shabbir Hussan I. Merchant, M.D., Lan Luo, M.D., Madeleine Sharp, M.D., Miriam Sklerov, M.D.

Rush University Medical Center
Meagan Bailey, M.D., Ian O. Bledsoe, M.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships: $300,000

Alpha-synuclein Aggregation Causes Toxicity by Decreasing Functional Forms of the Protein
Matthew Benskey, Ph.D., Mentor: Fredric P. Manfredsson, Ph.D., Michigan State University

Mechanisms for the Modulation of Striatonigral and Striatopallidal Neuron Activity by Phosphodiesterase 10A Inhibition in L-DOPA-induced Dyskinesia
Fernando Padovan-Neto, Ph.D., Mentor: Anthony R. West, Ph.D., Rosalind Franklin University

Deciphering the Mechanism of Action of Parkin Using a Structure-based FRET-reporter System
Matthew Tang, Ph.D., Mentor: Edward Fon, M.D., Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University

Novel Deep Brain Stimulation Paradigms on Treating Parkinsonian Non-human Primates and the Underlying Physiological Plasticity
Jing Wang, Ph.D., Mentor: Jerrold Vitek, M.D., Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Input- and Cell-type Specific Rewiring of Subcellular Connectivity in the Striatum in Parkinsonian Mice
Yu-Wei, Wu, Ph.D., Mentor: Jun Ding, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine

Phosphorylated Alpha-synuclein Peptides as Biomarkers of Parkinson's Disease
Li Yang, Ph.D., Mentor: Jing Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.,
University of Washington 

Collaborative Fellowships: $142,500

Parkinson's Foundation-AANI Clinician-Scientist Development Award ($52,500)

(in partnership with the American Brain Foundation)

Parkin Overexpression as a Therapeutic Strategy**
Amber Van Laar, M.D., Mentor: J. Timothy Greenamyre, M.D., Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Parkinson's Foundation-PSG Mentored Clinical Research Award ($50,000)

(In partnership with the Parkinson Study Group)

Comparative Evaluation of Data-driven Parkinson's Disease Subtypes for Clinical Research
Tiago Mestre, M.D., M.Sc., Mentor: Connie Marras, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., Ph.D., University of Ottawa

Parkinson's Foundation-HHMI Medical Research Fellowship ($40,000)

(In partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

Correlation of SIRT6 Expression with Differential Vulnerability of Dopaminergic Neurons to Pathology in Normal Aging and Parkinson's Disease
Alireza Samiei, Mentor: Mel Feany, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

Stanley Fahn Research Fellowships ($100,000)

Two years of research support for top-ranked applicants to the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program.
Functional Analysis of Dopamine-dependent Circuits Activity in Parkinson's Disease*
Nan Li, Ph.D., Mentor: Alan Jasanoff, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In Vivo Modulation of Alpha-synuclein Phosphorylation: Tracking Aggregates in the Living Mouse Brain
Kateri Spinelli, Ph.D., Mentor: Vivek Unni, M.D., Ph.D., Oregon Health & Science University

Summer Student Fellowships ($40,000)

Palliative Care in PD: A Mixed Methods Analysis Project
Isabel Boersma, M.S., Mentor: Benzi Kluger, M.D., M.S., University of Colorado School of Medicine

Investigating Clinical and Pathological Differences in Parkinson's Disease and Related Alpha-synucleinopathies via Immunohistochemistry
Hannah Bucklin, Mentor: Virginia M.Y. Lee, Ph.D., Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Evaluation of Striatal Expression for AGTR1 in the Striatonigral Pathway
Julia Cha, Mentor: Ann Graybiel, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Role of Glutaredoxin 2 in Mitochondrial Integrity and Dopaminergic Protection in C. elegans Model of PD
Pierce Curran, Mentor: Shu Chen, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University

Testing the Protective Ability, Mechanism, and Stability of Guanabenz Derivatives for Potential Use in Parkinson's Disease-Targeted Neuroprotective Therapy
David Dai, Mentor: Lloyd A. Greene, Ph.D., Columbia University Medical Center

Effects of Inosine on Blood Glutathione in SURE-PD Trial
Daniel Di Luca, Mentor: Michael Schwarzschild, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital

Evaluating c-Abl Phosphorylation of Parkin in Animal Models of Parkinson's Disease
Preston Ge, Mentor: Ted Dawson, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Regulation of LRRK2 Activity Through PIRB
William Pan, Mentor: Zhenyu Yue, Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Gastric Administration of Paraquat and Lectins Linked to the Parkinsonian-like Gastric Dysmotility in Rats
Michael Skolka, Mentor: R. Alberto Travagli, Ph.D., Penn State Hershey College of Medicine

Role of the Subthalamic Nucleus in Blink Suppression
Maryam Vaseghi-Shanjani, Mentor: Robert Chen, M.A., M.B., BChir., M.Sc., F.R.C.P.C., Toronto Western Research Institute

Student Travel Awards ($13,000)

Funding students to present results of their Parkinson's research at the following conferences:

Eastern North American Region International Biometric Society Spring Meeting

Augmented Beta Rectangular Regression Models: A Bayesian Perspective
Jue Wang, Mentor: Sheng Luo, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

45th Annual Society for Neuroscience Meeting

A Common Neuroinflammatory Profile Associated with Intrastriatal
Megan Duffy, Mentor: Caryl E. Sortwell, Ph.D., Michigan State University

Evolution of Limb Kinematics During Fine Motor Skill Acquisition in Rats
Titus John, Mentor: Daniel Leventhal, M.D., Ph.D., University of Michigan

Modulation of LRRK2 Kinase Activity by a Fragment of its COR Domain
Adam Schaffner, Mentor: Zhenyu Yue, Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Impaired Alpha-Synuclein Membrane Interaction Promotes Aggregation and Neurotoxicity in Parkinson's Disease
Daniel Ysselstein, Mentor: Jean-Christophe Rochet, Ph.D., Purdue University

Gordon Conference on Oxidative Stress and Disease

DJ-1 in Grx1 Mediated Dopaminergic Neuronal Protection
William Johnson, Mentor: John Mieyal, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University

International Society for Posture and Gait Research Congress

Does Anxiety Compete for Processing Resources During Walking and a Dual-task in Parkinson's?
Brittany Intzandt, Mentor: Quincy J. Almeida, M.Sc., Ph.D., Wilfrid Laurier University

Keystone Symposia: Neuroinflammation in Diseases of the Central Nervous System

Genetic Variant Associated with Altered HLA Expression and PD
George Kannarkat, Mentor: Malú Tansey, Ph.D., Emory University

Meeting of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy

rAAV-mediated Regulation of Striatal Nurr1 Expression Alters Development and Severity of Levodopa-induced Dyskinesias in the 6OHDA Rat Model of Parkinson's
Rhyomi Sellnow, Mentor: Fredric P. Manfredsson, Ph.D., Michigan State University

19th International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders: The Neuroprotective Potential of Subthalamic Nucleus DBS in an Alpha-synuclein

Overexpression Rat Model of PD
David Luke Fischer, Mentor: Caryl E. Sortwell, Ph.D., Michigan State University

Genetic Variation and Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson's Disease Patients from Uruguay
Andrés Lescano, M.D., Mentor: Ignacio Fernandez Mata, Ph.D., University of Washington

International Research Grants: $330,000

Promote innovative research projects that have high potential to significantly advance the knowledge of Parkinson's.

Novel Insights into the Properties and Fate of Naturally Secreted Alpha-synuclein*
Georgia Sotiropoulou, Ph.D., University of Patras, Greece

Striatal CaV1.3 Calcium Channel Silencing as a Neuroprotective Target for Levodopa-induced Dyskinesias*
Kathy Steece-Collier, Ph.D., and Fredric P. Manfredsson, Ph.D., Michigan State University

Neuroprotection by XPro1595 in a Chronic MPTP Monkey Model of Parkinson's*
Malú Tansey, Ph.D., and Yoland Smith, Ph.D., Emory University

Dysfunctional Signaling Mechanism of Neurotransmission in Parkinson's Disease*
Zhenyu Yue, Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Advancing Parkinson's Treatments Grants: $515,000

Facilitate the movement of treatments from "bench to bedside."

Parkinson's Foundation Parkinson's Prevalence Project ($250,000)

Prevalence of Parkinson's Disease in Olmsted County, Minn.
James Bower, M.D., M.Sc. and Rodolfo Savica, M.D., M.Sc., Mayo Clinic Rochester

Parkinson's Disease Prevalence in the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study
G. Webster Ross, M.D., Pacific Health Research & Education Institute

Prevalence and Incidence of Parkinson's Disease in 4 California Counties 2008-10
Caroline M. Tanner, M.D., Ph.D. University of California San Francisco

Prevalence of Parkinsonism in Kaiser Permanente Northern California 
Stephen Van Den Eeden, Ph.D., Kaiser Permanente Division of Research

Verification of PD Diagnosis in Individuals Who Do Not See a Neurologist
Allison Willis, M.D., M.S., University of Pennsylvania

Innovations Awards ($150,000)

Parkinson Study Group: Advancing Clinical Research 
Michael Schwarzschild, M.D., Ph.D., and Hubert Fernandez, M.D.

Meeting Sponsorship: $115,000

Gordon Research Conference on PD ($100,000)

Emerging Research in the Etiology and Pathogenesis of a Complex Disease
David Sulzer, Ph.D., and Andrew Singleton, Ph.D., Columbia University Medical Center and National Institutes of Health

Van Andel Institute Grand Challenges in PD ($3,000)

Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., Van Andel Institute

Fostering New Directions in PD Research: Movement Disorders Course for Graduate and Postdoctoral Students and Junior Neurologists ($10,000)

International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society

American Society for Neural Therapy and Repair Conference ($2,000)

Michael Modo, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh

Conference Awards: $93,000

Fatigue in PD Follow-Up: Cytokine Levels
Christopher Fagundes, Ph.D., M.S., Rice University and Karen Herlofson, M.D., Ph.D., Sorlandet Hospital, Norway.

Global Force PD: Cell Based Therapies for PD
Claire Henchcliffe, M.D., D.Phil., Lorenz Studer, M.D., and Viviane Tabar, M.D., Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Palliative Care in Parkinson's Disease 
Benzi Kluger, M.D., M.S., University of Colorado

PAIR Leadership Awards: $15,000

What Constitutes a Meaningful Cognitive Outcome in Parkinson's?
Jared Benge, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.-C.N., Baylor Scott & White Health

Parkinson's Disease Outreach and Education on Behalf of the University of Pennsylvania Udall Center
Jacqueline Rick, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Development and Continuous Usage Feedback from the Parkinson's Disease Community on the Ecological MOod TrackEr (EMOTE) App: Filling in the Unmet Need
Alit Stark-Inbar, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

2015 Investigator Awards

Under the direction of its Scientific Advisory Board, the Parkinson's Foundation most recently awarded the following Clinical Research and Intervention Investigator Awards for Parkinson's Disease. The four grants targeted key scientific questions about gender differences in Parkinson's, cognition and inflammation:

Determinants of Sex Differences in Caregiving for Parkinson's Disease
Nabila Dahodwala, M.D., University of Pennsylvania

We awarded Dr. Dahodwala a two-year grant to study issues resulting in caregiving differences and to explore potential improved caregiving options. Starting with an analysis of data from Parkinson's Foundation Parkinson's Outcomes Project, Dr. Dahodwala will study barriers to effective caregiving, starting in a small-scale setting and expanding to understand a large and diverse group. Drawing on outcomes data, she will design an approach to help clinicians to address issues of caregiving and to engage clinic social workers to improve the lives of both women and men affected by PD.

The Relationship Between Microglial Activation and β-amyloid Deposition in PD-MCI and PD-dementia
Antonio Strafella, M.D., Ph.D., University of Toronto, Toronto

In 2010, the Parkinson's Foundation awarded Dr. Strafella a grant to research how patients with mild cognitive impairment differed from those without, at the level of deep brain structures, using advanced imaging techniques. Dr. Strafella will follow up this work looking at inflammation, studying the impact of the Alzheimer's protein β-amyloid in Parkinson's. This study will use an advanced imaging technique, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, to examine how many key factors interrelate in the brain. First, they will look at the brain's immune system's activation, which is based on cells called microglia that respond to inflammation in the brain, in patients experiencing cognitive change. Second, they will look for β-amyloid deposition to see if this Alzheimer's protein links to the inflammation. Finally, they will look to see if the brain atrophies in regions where they find one or both signals. A big question is which comes first: the bad proteins or the inflammation? They will base this study around a new technology: an innovative PET-scan tracer showing where the brain's immune system is active.

Neuroinflammation via T-cell Response in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Diseases
David Sulzer, Ph.D., Columbia University

Dr. Sulzer explores a radical new hypothesis in this study: could Parkinson's disease be significantly characterized as an autoimmune disorder, where immune system response, rather than toxic protein accumulation, causes Parkinson's the cell damage? Dr. Sulzer's lab has found two markers of immune response present in people with Parkinson's. Though this work relates to the current focus on the key Parkinson's protein called α-synuclein, it suggests that this protein's greatest impact may be downstream from its synthesis and misfolding. By focusing on studying tissue from people with Parkinson's and not models, Dr. Sulzer hopes to provide a greater understanding of Parkinson's.

Establishing the Link Between Canonical TGFβ-superfamily Signaling and Parkinson's Disease Pathophysiology
Paschalis Sideras, Ph.D., Biomedical Research Foundation Academy, Athens, Greece

Signaling proteins called transforming growth factor-beta (TGFβ) proteins regulate several brain processes, including some inflammatory reactions. Scientists know that several TGFβ proteins link to Parkinson's, but do not know how. Dr. Sideras will study these regulatory proteins in several mouse models of Parkinson's, looking for common responses across models that could help inform treatment decisions and future research. Dr. Sideras hopes that understanding TGFβ will guide strategies to make the dopamine-producing neurons more resistant to PD.

Additional Past Funded Research

Prion-like Propagation of a-Synuclein Pathology in iPSC-derived Dopamine Neurons from Patients with Parkinson's Disease
Edward A. Fon, M.D., FRCP-C, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Using induced stem cell lines derived from actual patients (non-embryonic), Dr. Fon will create neurons with PD in a cell culture. He and his team will then look closely at the internal structures of the cells and how PD pathology affects them at the cell level. They will also create neurons from people who didn't have Parkinson's so that they can compare. Dr. Fon's team has tested almost 200,000 potential drugs to stop Parkinson's using generic human-derived cells and found some that seem like they may be able to slow down or stop the disease. They will repeat this test using actual, human-derived neurons created using induced stem cells to screen potential drugs to stop PD.

Studies of Prion-like Peripheral to CNS Transmission of α-Synuclein Pathology Mouse Models
Benoit Giasson, Ph.D., Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, University of Florida, Gainesville

The key to Parkinson's may be a protein called alpha-synuclein. Dr. Giasson and his team are going to inject clumps of alpha-synuclein into the bodies of animals and then figure out if it can get into the brain from, for example, an injection in the leg. If the protein does spread this way, and if the animal then develops symptoms of PD, then this could prove that this model does work. This also would give us an easily made PD model that could be used to study drugs that might cure the disease.

PET Imaging of Hyperphosphorylated Tau Denotes Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson's Disease
Stephen Gomperts, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

The protein tau, seen in Parkinson's is better known for its association with cognitive change in other conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or chronic traumatic encephalopathy caused by repeated impact to the brain. A newly developed radioactive tracer will show where the protein tau is accumulating and create a picture using a PET scan. For the first time, scientists will be able to look at tau in patients living with PD and figure out if the cognitive change we see in PD is a result of this protein or something else.

Exercise Targeting Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson's Disease
Giselle M. Petzinger, M.D., University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Parkinson's experts believe that exercise is as important as any drug in holding back the disease, but many people with PD wonder, "What kind of exercise should I do?" This study will test a new exercise protocol that Dr. Petzinger developed from studying the biology of exercise at the cellular level versus a more traditional approach. Her goal will be to show that this new, specially designed exercise protocol improves high-level thinking in people with Parkinson's. This important work will focus on improving early and subtle aspects of cognitive change, including standard tests of executive function but also novel tests that incorporate testing of aspects of thinking that are important to patients.

Risk Factors for Cognitive Change in Parkinson's Disease from the Framingham Study
Rhoda Au, Ph.D., Boston University School of Medicine

If successful, this study will help us to understand how much cognitive change seen in Parkinson's is really part of Parkinson's disease, rather than in association with other factors. It will show us how much research into Alzheimer's disease and other dementias can influence Parkinson's-associated cognitive change and show us how much research into those diseases could help people with Parkinson's.

Can Parkinson's Disease be Prevented?
Anat Mirelman, PhD; Nir Giladi, MD, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Israel

Researchers are conducting this study to find if tracking the incidence of PD in a population where the expected incidence is known but subjected to a series of neuroprotective interventions can prevent PD.

Are Novel MRI features Suitable Biomarkers for Motor and Non-motor Manifestations of Parkinson's Disease?
Martin McKeown, M.D., University of British Columbia, Canada

This study aims to show that the shape of brain structures, identified by imaging, can show Parkinson's disease and track its progress.

Motor Programming and Memory
M. Felice Ghilardi, M.D., New York University

This study identifies PD motor learning deficit mechanisms and explores possible correction.

Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) in PD
Carlos Singer, M.D., University of Miami

Researchers are conducting this study of 200 people with PD to identify SDB prevalence in PD, determine the correlation of SDB and PD-related cognitive impairment, and determine positive airway pressure (PAP) effects on SDB and cognition in PD. The study enrolls both English- and Spanish-speaking participants.

Biomarker Assessment of the Parkinson's Associated Risk Study (PARS) Cohort
Matthew Stern, M.D., MSCE, University of Pennsylvania

This study uses biospecimens collected while the first signs of PD progress into diagnosable PD to find if the blood chemistry changes show PD presence and progression. The ultimate PARS project goal is to better understand who may be at risk for PD to prevent it before it starts. Learn more information about the PARS study

ParkFit Trial Analysis
Bastiaan Bloem, M.D., Ph.D., Radboud University, Netherlands

This study is testing a motivational regimen to see if it is the right approach to encourage patients to exercise and to measure the results achieved.

The Nintendo Wii vs. Handheld Control Gaming and its Relationship to Function in Clients with Parkinson's Disease
N. Ben Herz, OTD, MBA, OTR, Georgia Health and Sciences University

This study is evaluating the use of the Wii for therapy for PD patients, with the goal of proving that the objective measures of performance and adherence available with the Wii will result in better outcomes.

Visual Attention Deficits as an Early Sign of Cognitive Change
Sherrilene Classen, Ph.D., MPH, OTR/L, University of Florida

This study is exploring visual attention deficit as a symptom of Parkinson's disease, yielding new insight into how Parkinson's affects the brain and the manifestations of these symptoms.

Early Detection of Cognitive Changes in the Brain
Antonio Strafella, M.D., Ph.D., FRCPC, Toronto Western Research Institute

This study is using advanced imaging techniques to study the mechanisms that lead to Parkinson's-related cognitive impairment in Parkinson's disease, a model pioneered successfully in Alzheimer's disease.

Comparing Physical Therapy Outcomes: LSVT-BIG© v. Aquatic Methods
David J. Houghton, MD, MPH, University of Louisville

This study compares two new PD physical therapy approaches, potentially establishing aquatic therapy efficacy, a therapy Medicare currently does not cover.

Comparing PD Management Strategies: Comprehensive Service Delivery vs. Standard Care
Robert Iansek, Ph.D., Victorian Comprehensive Parkinson Program, Australia

This study is exploring the cost-effectiveness of coordinated care versus uncoordinated care in a controlled experiment.

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