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Funded Studies

Predicting Conversion to Parkinson’s Disease Based on Proteomic Biomarkers in a Large Prospective Cohort

Study Rationale:
The ultimate aim in Parkinson’s disease research is to identify individuals at risk for developing Parkinson’s prior to disease onset. To reach this goal, a set of informative markers is needed to predict development of the disease with high accuracy. Prior evidence has shown that reliable prediction of the disease is not possible based on currently known Parkinson’s-associated factors alone. The difficulty of identifying additional biological signs of Parkinson’s, or biomarkers, lies in the comparatively rare occurrence of Parkinson’s in the general population. Therefore, huge collections of study participants with pre-disease biological specimens and long-term clinical information are needed.

The investigators hypothesize that future onset of Parkinson’s can be recognized by a specific combination of protein markers in the blood years prior to the clinical onset of motor symptoms. These proteins reflect the combined influence of genetic and non-genetic factors and can now be measured with high precision.

Study Design:
This study will make use of one of the largest prospective datasets worldwide, known as EPIC. This cohort comprises blood samples and detailed exposure data of 521,000 people across Europe who were healthy when data collection began. During more than 20 years of follow-up, some participants developed Parkinson’s. In this project, the investigators will measure approximately 5,000 proteins in 1,000 EPIC participants with Parkinson’s in blood samples collected prior to disease onset. These will be compared to equivalent data on 16,000 EPIC participants who did not develop diseases. Using different analysis paradigms, the team will derive the best possible combination of protein biomarkers (in concert with genetic and non-genetic factors) predictive of Parkinson’s.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s disease:
Biomarkers identified in this study could have a range of immediate applications in further observational studies or clinical trials, such as identifying high-risk people prior to disease onset who would be most likely to benefit from early interventions. Further, the results of our study may serve as markers for disease progression or therapy response in Parkinson’s.

Next Steps for Development:
For this project, the investigators will collaborate with with Somalogic, Inc. and use its SOMAscan assay to measure proteins. Together with the biomarker profiles derived from the study, this testing procedure can be readily applied in future observational or clinical trials.


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