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Funded Studies

Extracellular Vesicles Produced by Microglia as Novel Biomarkers of Parkinson's Disease

Study Rationale:
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are small sacks that are released by all cells of the human body. They cross barriers within the body with relative ease and carry molecules that can be used to diagnose disease. We will test the diagnostic potential of EVs released by microglia, a brain cell with special role in Parkinson's disease (PD).

We hypothesize that EVs released by microglia can be found not only in the brain but also in cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes the brain and the spinal cord, and in the blood. We also hypothesize that analyzing these EVs will help develop new biomarkers -- objective measures -- of PD.

Study Design:
We will first study EVs found in brain tissue samples using a new method that we helped to develop. Using results from that study, we will next seek EVs produced by microglia in cerebrospinal fluid and blood samples. Throughout, we will use a novel technology that lets us analyze the origin and contents of EVs.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson's Disease:
Since microglial cells are involved in the development and progression of Parkinson's, new ways to check their activity using blood or other bodily fluid samples would be valuable for diagnosing PD and monitoring its progression and response to treatment.

Next Steps for Development:
If we can successfully detect and analyze microglial EVs in bodily fluid samples, we will apply the novel technology used in our study to the development of new tools for rapid clinical diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.


  • Kenneth W. Witwer, PhD

    Baltimore, MD United States

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