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Funded Studies

Using Powerful Metabolomic Methods to Identify Blood-based Biomarkers of Early-Stage Parkinson's Disease

Study Rationale:
Metabolomics is an approach to studying molecules that are products of metabolism. Using metabolomics, we identified a unique feature -- metabolic fingerprint -- in the blood of pre-clinical models of Parkinson's disease (PD). It allowed us to distinguish between models of early-stage Parkinson's and healthy models of the same age. In this study, we aim to test if the metabolic fingerprint we identified is also present in people with PD. Diagnosing Parkinson's early in its course is important given that the early stage is the period when neuroprotective and disease-modifying treatments could be most effective.

We hypothesize that we can identify people in the early stages of PD by using a blood test that detects molecules that indicate disease.

Study Design:
Advanced research techniques, such as mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, will allow us to determine if the unique metabolic fingerprint is present in the human blood. We plan to use blood samples collected in the course of a large, 7-year-long clinical study. While all study participants were considered healthy at the beginning of this study, some of them developed PD over time. Blood samples will be tested to see if the metabolic fingerprint we identified in pre-clinical models is also present in the human blood. Analyses of these samples will help improve our diagnostic method and refine our definition of Parkinson's fingerprints.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson's Disease:
This study will allow us to confirm the molecules in the blood that help track disease progression or accurately identify those at the greatest risk of developing Parkinson's. This will allow clinicians to identify the right person at the right time and offer them the right therapeutic intervention.

Next Steps for Development:
Once we identify a PD-specific metabolic fingerprint in the human samples, we will then aim to confirm our findings using a larger study, such as the Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), The Michael J. Fox Foundation's landmark clinical study to find biomarkers -- disease indicators that are critical missing links in the search for better Parkinson's treatments.


  • Stewart Francis Graham, PhD

    Rochester, MI United States

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