Itís been a big year for PPMI. In the ongoing search to better understand whatís happening in the body prior to the motor symptoms of PD, the study is launching a new arm that will include adding a pre-motor cohort.
Back in July at the Movement Disorders Society annual meeting, scientists debated, ĎIs PD even rightly defined as a movement disorder anymore?í Hereís why: By the time a person is diagnosed with Parkinsonís, the disease is already well developed ó typically an individual has already lost a significant amount of their dopamine neurons. More and more, research is pointing to the fact that Parkinsonís may involve other systems in the body, beyond the central nervous system.
ďIím amazed to think how our vision of PD continues to evolve,Ē says Maurizio Facheris, MD, MSc, associate director of research programs at MJFF. ďIt has now moved way beyond the substantia nigra [the region of the brain where the dopamine deficit associated with the motor symptoms of PD occurs], even beyond the entire brain itself to include the colon and other systems. We need to expand our thinking in developing treatments that could possibly target systems in the body that we never expected to target.Ē
This new arm of PPMI focuses on three particular study groups that could lead science to the kind of expanded vision that Dr. Facheris is talking about, and, in turn, to treatments that more holistically address the disease. The study will evaluate and follow people who donít have Parkinsonís but may be at risk to develop PD over time, including: people who suffer from a reduced sense of smell; those with rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD); and those with a mutation in the LRK2 gene (the single greatest genetic contributor to PD known to date).
If scientists can learn more about the biological processes taking place in people with any of these three conditions, they may be able to define biomarkers at an even earlier stage. This is vital for Parkinsonís drug development. Such knowledge could also lead to new targets for drugs to attack the disease before it ever starts.
Find more information on PPMI at michaeljfox.org/ppmi.