Every research project we fund is a step closer to new and better therapies for people with Parkinson's disease. To keep you informed of the Foundation's research investments, we're highlighting a few newly funded grants each month. To learn more about these studies and the more than 450 active research projects that The Michael J. Fox Foundation is supporting, visit our Funded Grants page.
This month’s collection represents varied aspects of the MJFF research strategy: a target for disease-modifying therapy, the connection between genetics and non-motor symptoms, and measuring motor symptom progression.
Examining a Gene’s Association to Motor and Cognitive Symptoms
Matthew Farrer, PhD
University of British Columbia, Canada
Linking a genetic mutation to motor and cognitive symptoms could illuminate new drug targets.
We know that some people with PD have mutations in the gene SNCA. We also know that people with PD can have motor and cognitive symptoms. These researchers are studying how mutations in SNCA are associated with these symptoms. If they can understand the connection, they may be able to use SNCA to predict the trajectory of an individual’s PD. Their findings may also point to pathways between the gene mutation and the onset of symptoms (how do you get from A to Z, in other words) that may serve as targets for new drugs.
Validating New Scores for Measuring Subtle Symptom Progression
Marina Picillo, MD
University of Salerno, Italy
More detailed scores can help monitor short-term progression in early disease stages.
Physicians and researchers use scales — Hoehn and Yahr, Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) — to measure progression of PD motor symptoms, but these focus on leaps in progression seen in later disease rather than subtle, early changes. This project is validating new scores that can rate short-term progression in symptoms like bradykinesia, tremor and rigidity. These scores could be used in clinical studies that enroll early-stage disease patients to monitor PD and the effects of therapeutic drugs.
Learning from Cancer Pathways for Parkinson’s Disease
Rachel Saunders-Pullman, MD, MPH, MS
Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Beth Israel Medical Center, New York
Understanding if LRRK2 mutations are linked to cancer may show pathways to PD.
This project grows on previous MJFF-funded analysis from the same group on the prevalence of cancer in carriers of a mutation of the LRRK2 gene, the greatest known genetic contributor to Parkinson’s. This project will further investigate if the mutation plays a role in development of cancerous tumors. If so, researchers could study the pathways the mutation works through to cause tumors. Some of those pathways may be implicated in PD, too, and could be targets for new therapies. In addition, findings may help monitor and treat cancer.
Learn more about how you can contribute to Parkinson’s research by registering with Fox Trial Finder.