Healthy Living

Grants to Support Parkinson’s Studies Get Approved

Grants to Support Parkinson’s Studies Get Approved

Grants to Support Parkinson’s Studies Get Approved

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative brain disorder. It involves the impairment and death of neurons, which are vital nerve cells in the brain. With Parkinson’s, a person’s brain slowly stops producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Most symptoms take years to develop, but do progress over time, making it harder and harder to lead a normal life. At present, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. 

Parkinson’s disease involves the impairment and death of neurons. It is a chronic neurodegenerative brain disorder. The disease causes the brain to slowly stop producing dopamine. It may take years to develop symptoms, but over time, they advance and worsen, making life increasingly difficult.

To treat the disease, originally, scientists focused on the idea of using antioxidants. Unfortunately, most of the clinical trials failed. However, the focus has now diverged into two independent lines of research. The role of one protein was changed by research center scientists Jeffrey Kordower and David Sulzer. In the development of Parkinson’s disease, a protein called alpha-synuclein was thought to be the plausible culprit. In the brainstem, alpha-synuclein is found in the midbrain, brainstem, and olfactory bulbs. They are also known as Lewy bodies. When the Lewy bodies abnormally clump together, the function of the midbrain and other brainstem structures become impaired.

Funding and supporting clinical researchers of Parkinson’s disease around the world and promising early career success is the main focus of the National Parkinson’s Foundation grant-making strategy. In PD research, the foundation announced a $1.2 million investment that will be spent on fellowships and career development programs. 27 career development and fellowship grants are included in funded projects. They also cover a wide scope of areas, which is important for development in research. The NPF has capitalized more than $189 million in these services.

Grant recipients are carefully filtered through an application process, and the scientific advisory board reviews the results. In order to make advances, the National Parkinson’s Foundation recognizes the need to support the ingenuity and creativity of the next generation of experts. A standout grant recipient of the postdoctoral fellowship is Dr. Xi Chen of Van Andel Research. A great deal of funding has provided to Dr. Chen to study the role the gene VPS35 plays in Parkinson’s. To understand the interaction between this gene and certain proteins and brain cells that cause symptoms, Dr. Chen uses mice as subjects. Dr. Chen is accompanied by his mentor, Darren Moore. The National Parkinson’s Foundation funded his early research. The grant projects supported by the National Parkinson’s Foundation range from three months to two years in length. Clinicians and students are given the chance to test new propositions, progress to becoming top leaders in the field, and work with consultants. By understanding the gene VPS35, researchers hope to prevent and cure Parkinson’s disease in the future by developing new drugs.

The NPF has invested millions of dollars to help improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease. The foundation has funded past grant projects that include:

  • In Parkinson’s disease, exercise targeting cognitive impairment
  • From the Framingham study in Parkinson’s disease, risk factors for cognitive change
  • Memory and motor programming
  • In PD, sleep disorder breathing
  • Park fit trial analysis
  • In the brain, to detect early cognitive changes
  • To detect early signs of cognitive change

An assessment of biomarkers in Parkinson’s disease associate risk study, the longest standing and largest ever clinical study, was begun in 2009. It is the National Parkinson’s Foundation’s outcome project in which every individual living with the disease is studied. It includes those who have been living with the disease for years and those who have been newly diagnosed. It focuses on:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Care and importance of seeing a neurologist regularly