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Funded Studies

N-formyl Peptides as Novel Biomarkers for Parkinson's Disease

Study Rationale:
Mitochondria -- the powerhouses of the cell -- have their own DNA that contains the instructions to make thirteen proteins. Fragments of these proteins, known as N-formyl peptides, can escape from the cell when mitochondria are damaged. The immune system perceives N-formyl peptides as dangerous and responds with inflammation, which ultimately causes tissue injury. This process may play a role in the onset and progression of Parkinson's disease (PD).

This study will explore whether mitochondrial N-formyl peptides can be used as biomarkers -- objective measures of disease -- for early detection of Parkinson's.

Study Design:
The peptides will be measured in blood samples donated by people newly diagnosed with PD. Subsequent analyses of cerebrospinal fluid -- the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord -- and brain samples will show whether the peptides come from the site of tissue injury. We will also search for correlation between the levels of N-formyl peptides in each of the sample types and the progression and severity of the disease.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson's disease:
This study can potentially produce methods of early diagnosis and accurate prediction of disease progression. This will be critical to the development of effective therapies that require diagnosis before the onset of symptoms.

Next Steps for Development:
A better understanding of N-formyl peptides will provide the basis of a sensitive and specific test for PD that could be included into diagnostic programs in the future. This work will also support further search for a cure for Parkinson's disease.


  • Mary Kathleen Doherty, PhD, MRSC, CChem

    Inverness United Kingdom

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