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Four New Funded Studies Use Data to Identify Parkinson’s Prevention or Treatment Options

Female researcher in lab with tool.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) announces nearly $1.1 million in grants to research teams to identify lifestyle factors, medication use and other interventions that may help prevent or treat Parkinson’s disease. These grants are funded with support from longtime partner the Edmond J. Safra Foundation.

MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD, says: “There are many large, epidemiological datasets that scientists can use to find associations between things people are doing (or not doing) and their risk of Parkinson’s. This research could provide evidence on ways to reduce risk and point us toward medications that could be repurposed to treat Parkinson’s. Our goal is to spur research that can benefit patients as quickly as possible. ”

With a clearer understanding of modifiable risk factors, physicians can offer patients advice on lifestyle changes or medication choices to lower the odds of developing Parkinson’s disease. And researchers can study medications that are associated with lowered risk as possible treatment options. The four funded programs were chosen from 23 applications submitted during a competitive review process. Descriptions of the programs follow.


  • Puja Agarwal, PhD, and a team at Rush University Medical Center will investigate the effects of several diets on Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, they will examine the association between the DASH, Mediterranean, MIND and typical Western diets on parkinsonian signs (e.g., bradykinesia, gait, tremors and rigidity) and brain changes common in Parkinson’s and other brain disorders. The goal is to determine if healthy diets can slow the development or progression of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Grantees at INSERM (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) plan to use two large datasets to identify whether specific medications are associated with lower Parkinson’s disease risk. Alexis Elbaz, MD, PhD, and the other investigators will look at drug classes identified through previous research (e.g., non-aspirin NSAIDs and ibuprofen, calcium channel blockers, statins, beta-2-agonists) and examine the databases for potential new drugs. These results may uncover drugs that can be tested in human clinical trials as well as mechanisms of action that could inform new drug development. 
  • The Norwegian Prescription database includes comprehensive information on approximately 600 million prescriptions for all Norwegians since 2004. Investigators Trond Riise, PhD, University of Bergen, and Clemens Scherzer, MD, Harvard Medical School will mine this resource to evaluate whether use of any specific drugs is associated with Parkinson’s risk. Then they plan to confirm risk associations for significant drugs using dose-response, time lag, and sensitivity analyses. The goal is to confirm candidate drugs with a known safety profile that can be repurposed for patients with Parkinson’s.
  • Anna-Maija Tolppanen, PhD, and a team at the University of Eastern Finland will also review a national database detailing prescription drugs used in Finland in from 1995 through 2015 for Parkinson’s risk associations. The investigators will seek to replicate findings on any drugs positively associated with lower Parkinson’s risk or slower progression using a separate data set. Identified drugs could be candidates for randomized controlled trials as potential Parkinson’s treatments.
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