CHICAGO – About 1 million Americans have Parkinson's disease, a progressive disorder of the central nervous system.
There are treatments that can temporarily alleviate the symptoms, but there isn't a cure.
Now, a five-year study is being kicked off at 18 research sites around the world, including one in Chicago, to speed up the development of treatments to slow or stop the progression of this disease.
The Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative, a study funded with $40 million from the Michael J. Fox Foundation, will be enrolling 400 newly diagnosed patients with Parkinson's and 200 people who don't have the disease.
Northwestern Medicine's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center in Chicago hopes to enroll 20 people to participate for two years, according to the foundation. Northwestern is one of 14 research sites in the U.S., and the only one in the Midwest participating in the study.
Researchers will be looking for the biomarkers for Parkinson's disease.
"Parkinson's is a disease without a clear-cut diagnosis and without a cure," Dr. Tanya Simuni, principal investigator for the study at Northwestern and director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center, said in a news release. "While significant strides have been made in the development of drugs to manage the disease, hope for the future lies in the development of new drugs to slow or stop the progression of Parkinson's."
The four main symptoms of Parkinson's are tremor or trembling in the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face, stiffness of the limbs and trunk, slowness of movement and impaired balance and coordination, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Over time, people with Parkinson's have trouble walking, talking and doing simple tasks.
Parkinson's typically affects people over age 50. Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's 19 years ago.
To learn more about the study and other sites where it will be available, see www.michaeljfox.org/PPMI.
For more information about the study and enrollment at Northwestern, call 312-503-5645.
Karen Williams, senior research coordinator for the movement disorders program at Northwestern, said enrollment in the study has begun and callers should be prepared to take part in a telephone screening.