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Funded Studies

Analysis of Brain and Peripheral Small Molecule Levels in Parkinson’s Disease

Study Rationale:
Parkinson’s disease is accompanied by a loss of chemical signaling molecules in the brain and body. For instance, chemicals like dopamine are lost in both the gut and in the brain, leading to gastrointestinal and movement complications. The purpose of this study is to examine a large number of different molecules in Parkinson’s disease patients compared to healthy people. Finding differences in the chemical makeup of these patient samples may give us clues to ways to diagnose the disease earlier or to novel treatments.

We believe that brain (measured via cerebrospinal fluid) and body (measured in blood) chemicals will correlate to one another and be significantly different in Parkinson’s disease patients compared to controls. These differences can be used as biological markers to assess degree of Parkinson’s disease severity.

Study Design:
We will employ state-of-the art analytical methods that can detect chemicals at extremely low concentrations in both cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and in plasma (blood). We will analyze the levels of approximately 65 different chemicals in CSF and blood from both Parkinson’s disease patients and control volunteers. Importantly, we will assess the degree of symptoms in these patients using the clinical information provided by the Fox Investigation for New Discovery of Biomarkers (BioFIND) study. Our goal is to correlate levels of chemicals with motor and non-motor disease severity.  

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:              
This study has two-fold impact on the future of Parkinson’s disease. Firstly, it may provide a reliable biological marker for the disease, which will aid in earlier detection and thus improved treatment. Additionally, this study may provide novel biological targets for Parkinson’s disease if one or more of the analyzed chemicals are found to be significantly changed compared to controls.

Next Steps for Development:
The next steps of this study would be to run a second, blinded study where PD patient samples from another cohort are compared to healthy controls to further validate our findings.


  • Omar S. Mabrouk, PhD

    Ann Arbor, MI United States

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