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Funded Studies

Cytokine Production by Adaptive Immune Cells in Parkinson’s Disease: Response to Diverse Biological Stimuli

Study Rationale:
Many studies indicate a role for the adaptive immune system in Parkinson’s disease. Our study will produce proteins called cytokines that play a role in the immune response to determine if there are abnormalities in these cells that may cause inflammation and degeneration of the nervous system. Cytokines are crucial in controlling the growth and activity of other immune system cells and blood cells, and these differences could be used to measure Parkinson’s or point to a new way to stop the disease.

We hypothesize that people with Parkinson’s patients spontaneously express cytokines and/or are more sensitive to stimulation to produce cytokines, which then promote inflammation.

Study Design:
We will collect and use samples from 50 people with Parkinson’s diagnosed in the past two years (early-stage) and without a known cause for their disease (idiopathic as well as 50 people with mid-stage (diagnosed 2-10 years ago) idiopathic Parkinson’s. We also will use samples from 100 control volunteers without Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s patients will have blood drawn at the beginning of the study and 12 months later. We will use several techniques to assess the capability of enriched immune cells (T-cells and B-cells) to secrete cytokines in response to biologically relevant stimuli.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
We are confident of obtaining definitive results on T-cell and B-cell cytokine production in people with Parkinson’s. These findings will determine if abnormalities in cytokine production can be used as a biomarker for Parkinson’s progression.    

Next Steps for Development:
We will need to replicate the findings in a separate cohort of Parkinson’s patients, preferably from another institution, and confirm abnormalities in cytokine production by adaptive immune cells. We will explore how to dampen pro-inflammatory responses in these cells.


  • Etty (Tika) N. Benveniste, PhD

    Birmingham, AL United States

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