The Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) is MJFF's flagship clinical study to identify biomarkers, or indicators, of Parkinson's disease. The study is going on at 32 sites worldwide, including the University of California at San Diego. The San Diego Jewish Journal spoke with PPMI's principal investigator at UCSD, Dr. Douglas Galasko, about the study's investigation of the LRRK2 gene and the promise of genetics and biomarkers for Parkinson's research.
Below is an excerpt. You can also read the full article online.
Shortly after researchers determined that LRRK2 is the most significant gene in causing Parkinson’s disease, they discovered that in people with Ashkenazi Jewish backgrounds, it was an even stronger predictor. Ashkenazi Jewish people are more likely to carry the gene (30-60 out of 100) and of the five-10 percent of people who have genetic causes of Parkinson’s, 15-20 percent of them are Ashkenazi. Because of this, Dr. Galasko and the team at the Michael J. Fox Foundation are specifically looking for Ashkenazi Jews to participate in their genetic study.
“By identifying milestones within a very well characterized group of people who are LRRK2 carriers,” he continues, “we may be able to identify markers that we can then generalize to a lot of other people who may be at risk for Parkinson’s.”
Across the United States, the study is hoping to enroll 250 people with the LRRK2 gene who have Parkinson’s disease and 250 people who are carriers but do not have Parkinson’s. Their data will be added to the more than 600 people who are currently enrolled in the PPMI study on the non-genetic side of the equation. Ultimately, they will have a database of well-characterized genetic information that will be used to create new treatments and ultimately maybe cure the disease.
“We stand at a point where treatment studies are being planned to try to delay onset of certain types of symptoms,” Galasko says, “or perhaps to slow progression, but we really need objective measurements to help us initiate these trials and measure their outcomes.”
PPMI seeks to identify biomarkers of Parkinson's disease to give researchers the objective measurements they need to carry out studies of disease-modifying treatments. Visit the PPMI genetics page to find out if you may be eligible to participate in this important research.