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The Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards Over $2 Million to Study the Role of Inflammation in Parkinson's Disease

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) announced today that it has awarded approximately $2.2 million to fund 11 projects, which will investigate the role of cell inflammation in Parkinson’s disease.  The Foundation launched its Inflammation initiative in January 2003, and 51 researchers responded to the call for applications. 

“It has long been known that there are inflammatory changes in the parkinsonian brain. However, we want to look at various sources of evidence which suggest these changes are not simply secondary to the process of neuronal degeneration but rather could be playing an active role in the neurodegenerative process,” explained Dr. Robert E. Burke, MD, member of MJFF’s Scientific Advisory Board and director of laboratory research in PD and related disorders at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. “If we can improve our understanding of the connection between inflammation and PD we will be better positioned to develop new neuroprotective therapies which could slow the degenerative process of the disease.”

Recent epidemiologic studies, which have indicated that the use of non-steroid anti-inflammatory agents may be associated with a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, represent one line of evidence that supports the possibility of cell inflammation as cause rather than an effect of PD.

Recipients of grant awards under the Inflammation initiative were chosen from a pool of international applicants, representative of five different countries, and are characterized by a wide range of research interest and expertise.  Some funded projects aim to clarify the role of different substances or factors regulating the immune response while another will study specific cellular populations described in the pathogenesis of PD. Another project will investigate the role of prenatal exposure to inflammatory neurotoxins, and the possibility that more than one inflammatory process is necessary to produce PD. 

“In keeping with our grant selection philosophy, the Foundation has endeavored to assemble a portfolio of research projects which tackle the question at hand from a wide variety of angles,” stated Debi Brooks, Executive Director of MJFF.  “The purpose of our directive initiative programs is to zoom in on very specific topics, such as inflammation, but the success of these programs requires a very broad and visionary approach to the selection process.”

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research is pleased to award grants to the following researchers:

Paul M. Carvey, PhD
Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center
Chicago, IL
Project Title: “Spiral Inflammation Hypothesis of PD”

Etienne C. Hirsch
French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), Unit 289
Paris, France
Project Title: “Role of Lymphocyte Brain Infiltration in Neuroinflammation & Nerve Cell Death in PD”

Lih-Fen Lue, PhD
Sun Health Research Institute
Sun City, AZ
Project Title:"Activation of Receptor for Advanced Glycation Endproducts (RAGE) on Microglia: A Novel Inflammatory Mechanism Contributing to PD Pathogenesis"

David A. Loeffler, DVM, PhD
William Beaumont Hospital Research Institute
Royal Oak, MI
Project Title: “Significance of Complement Activation in the Progression of PD”

Fernando Pitossi, PhD
Foundation Leloir Institute-University of Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Project Title: “Studies on the effects of peripheral inflammation on the progression of PD”

George S. Robertson, PhD
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Project Title: “The Role of IAP-induction in Mediation of Erythropoietin-induced neuroprotection in Rodent Models of PD

Kathy Steece-Collier, PhD
Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center
Chicago, IL
Project Title: “The Role Subclinical Rejection in Graft-mediated Dyskinesias” 

Caroline M. Tanner MD, PhD
Parkinson’s Institute
Sunnyvale, CA
Project Title: “Inflammatory Mechanisms & PD Risk: A Discordant Twin Pairs Case-Control Study

Malú G. Tansey, PhD
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
Dallas, TX
Project Title: “The Role of TNF-mediated Dopaminergic Neurotoxicity in PD: Novel Anti-TNF Biologics as Biochemical Tools & New Therapeutic Agents

Douglas G. Walker, PhD
Sun Health Research Institute
Sun City, AZ
Project Title: “Involvement of CD200/CD200 Receptor Interactions in Inflammatory-mediated Pathology in PD” 

Luigi Zecca, MD, PhD
National Research Council
Segrate, Milano, Italy
Project Title: “Activation of neuroinflammatory glial response by neuromelanin, its role in neurodegeneration, and therapeutic strategies for PD

The Inflammation program is one element of the Foundation’s research agenda to eliminate Parkinson’s disease within the decade.  To date, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has funded nearly $30 million in research aimed at finding a cure for the disease either directly or through partnerships.  MJFF anticipates funding an additional $20 million by the end of 2003.

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