Researchers and fundraisers are upbeat and optimistic that one day they will find a cure for the condition. Research is also driven by people affected by Parkinson’s disease (PD). The aim of researchers is to control the progression of the disease, prevent the disease altogether and restore lost functions.
State of medicine for Parkinson's disease
Until recently, only a handful of new drugs for Parkinson’s have been approved. However, scientists are working around the clock to make developments in research and stop Parkinson’s disease.
- There are aims to identify a way that would prevent the loss of precious dopamine-producing cells, transforming them to different and enhanced treatments for Parkinson’s. This is also research underway to revive dormant cells to produce dopamine.
- When it comes to drugs, there are drugs being investigated that can assist in blocking glutamate, which is an amino acid responsible for the destruction of nerve cells.
- Deep Brain Stimulation – Researchers are working on having a better understanding on improving ways of stimulating the brain in Parkinson's disease.
- There are studies on how environmental toxins such as pesticides can cause the disease by exposing rodents to agricultural chemicals and seeing how they alter their behavioral patterns that mimic those in Parkinson’s.
- Ubiquitin-proteasome system – Researchers want to find out how disruption of the system may have partially led to mutations in genes leading to Parkinson’s.
- A customized Individual Therapy using Mobile Technologies – A new cell phone with varied applications is in the making. A team of researchers from Spain, for instance, is working on developing new software that collects data from a Parkinson’s patient using a wearable monitor. The gadget is able to collect psychological and movement data of a patient at the same time the data is transmitted wirelessly to a data logger.
- It is being researched if a migraine headache predicts Parkinson’s disease.
- There are studies on whether or not the overstimulation of nerve cells can lead to Parkinson's disease.
- Researchers are looking into daytime sleepiness and disrupted circadian rhythms in Parkinson's.
- There are studies on dopamine replacement and nutrition in PD.
- Biomarkers for Parkinson's disease - Certain biomarkers may help detect the symptoms before the disease appears.
Parkinson’s disease research programs and centers
These centers bring together specialists in PD focusing on changing the course of the disease. NPF (National Parkinson Foundation) for example has 105 medical centers of excellence worldwide. You can look for a center of excellence near you. The centers focus on research, finding a cure and outreach. More than half of the centers focus on a Parkinson’s disease outcome project. What this means is that they measure variations in treatment. The Parkinson's Outcome Project has a large database of about 10,000 patients for research purposes. The aim of the project is to raise awareness on different approaches to treating Parkinson's disease and the impact it has on outcomes.
Other centers include the National VA PD Consortium launched by the PADRECCs to expand Parkinson’s peer networking, awareness, education, training and mentorship across the VA the healthcare system. The Consortium comprises therapists, physicians, nurses and professionals in the field of movement disorders.
Examples of patient education
According to the United States National Parkinson's Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers, there is a telephone Parkinson's conference for patients accessible nationwide by telephone on the 2nd Tuesday of every month from 10-11am PT, 11am-12noon MT, 12-1pm CT, and 1-2pm ET. The organization also offers other educational series around the disease.
International research grants program
Grants are used to empower communities, people living with PD, clinicians, caregivers and scientists so that they find creative solutions that would benefit millions worldwide suffering from Parkinson's. To qualify for the funding there must be preliminary evidence indicating that the idea is feasible.
Parkinson's Disease Foundation grants the following:
- Innovation Award – $50,000
- Prevalence project – $50,000
- Meeting Sponsorship – $88,375
- Impact of Exercise on Fatigue, Anxiety, and Depression in PD – $9,500
- The Ecological Mood Tracker (EMOTE) App in Parkinson’s Disease: Filling the Unmet Need – $5,000
- Enhancing Patient Engagement in PD Mental Health Research – $5,000
- Meaningful Cognitive Outcomes in PD – $5,000
- PAIR Leadership Awards – $29,500
- Dystonia in Parkinson’s Disease – $20,000
- Non-pharmaceutical Ways of Maintaining Cognitive Function in Parkinson’s – $20,000
- Third Global Force PD: Cell-Based Therapies – $15,000
Parkinson's Disease Foundation - Fellowship and Career Development Program
The goal of this grant is to model leadership in research and clinical practice.
- Clinical Training Fellowships – $460,000 Columbia University Medical Center
- Stanley Fahn Junior Faculty Awards – $900,000
- Postdoctoral Research Fellowships – $500,000
- Collaborative Fellowships – $102,500
- PDF-APDA Summer Student Fellowships – $60,000
The Michael J. Fox Foundation-funded programs
- Target advancement
- Therapeutic development
- Outcome measures
- Inflammation Biomarkers for Parkinson's Disease
- Computational Tools for PD Therapeutic Development
Collaborative endeavors (including the Advancing Parkinson's Treatments Innovations Grant)
The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders collaborates with The Michael J. Fox Foundation to train neurologists to treat Parkinson’s disease. The aim is to develop a network of highly trained clinician researchers. The program funds academic institutions both US and International.
Funding patients living with PD
This is the most difficult funding to get. But, there a few options available that you may begin to explore. Some pharmaceutical companies may offer help to eligible patients, however, limited to brand medication, age, and income. Organizations such as Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPRA) may offer linkages with doctors, US pharmaceutical companies, and researchers to qualified patients without prescription coverage in order to access medication. Find out brand names and manufacturing companies offering patient assistance programs.
Scientists and experts design human research studies to answer questions about PD and new potential therapies. Clinical trials are the only way to ensure that a potential treatment works. However, a lack of volunteers may hamper the progress of finding a cure or treatment. Trials may determine if the new therapies are safe and effective. It is essential in the process of drug development. A participant may be asked to experiment with a new drug or undergo surgery. In order to participate in Parkinson's clinical trials, family and friends can sign up to Fox Trial Finder to know if their loved ones are eligible to participate in the trials or if they are a good match.
Benefits of clinical Parkinson’s disease trials
Provide new insights: Clinical trials are ongoing to find innovative therapies to make lives of PD bearable.
Prevention: It is the researchers' quests to help people live healthier lives.
Early detection: The earlier the PD can be detected the sooner it can successfully be addressed.
Treatment and cures: Researchers look for therapies and a broad range of treatments for Parkinson's disease.
Survivorship: Research tries to address long term and short term socio-economic, physical as well as psychological effects of Parkinson’s disease and treatment.
At the Institute of Neuroscience Virginia Mason, they have Parkinson's-focused programs. Besides, they use cutting-edge technology for neurological rehabilitation for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
There are some obstacles to research and funding
- Limited understanding of Parkinson’s disease.
- Unreliable funding has serious consequences which slow scientific progress. Young scientist interested in PD research quit because they cannot depend on their jobs. They end up taking their excellent talent elsewhere.
- Lack of support for basic PD science.
- Finding people to engage in PD research.
Scientists and researchers are striving to find the cure, best treatment and medication for Parkinson's patients to provide them with education and services that improve their quality of life and caregivers.