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The Michael J. Fox Foundation Commits $2 Million to New Dyskinesias Research Program

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research today announced that it has committed $2 million to a new research intiative to study dyskinesias, the involuntary, uncontrollable movements that are a frequent side-effect of treatment and are distinct from the tremors commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease.

The presence of dyskinesias is a major limiting factor in achieving adequate long-term control of Parkinson’s disease symptoms.  At present, the most commonly administered drug to treat Parkinson’s symptoms is levodopa (also called L-dopa), which helps restore levels of dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain responsible for smooth, coordinated movement and other motor functions.  Yet after 5 to 10 years of treatment with levodopa, approximately 80 percent of patients will develop uncontrollable movements, or dyskinesias, a major of disability in their lives.  In addition, in cell replacement therapy, the development of these same movements, even in the absence of levadopa therapy (so-called runaway dyskinesias) is now regarded as a critical roadblock to that therapy’s ultimate success.

“While important progress in understanding levodpa-induced dyskinesias has been made, the origin and precise mechanisms of levodpa-induced dsykinesias are still a medical mystery,” said Dr. William Langston, chief scientific advisor to MJFF and CEO of The Parkinson’s Institute.  “This research initiative seeks to build on the knowledge and expertise of meuroscientists and clinicians to further our understanding of dyskinesias.  There are few breakthroughs that would be more of an immediate impact on the day-to-day lives of patients with Parkinson’s disease than finding ways to prevent this often devastating side-effect of therapy.”

“This program is part of our strategy to zero in on areas of potentially high-impact research,” said Deborah W. Brooks, executive director.  “Coupled with our just-launched program studying inflammation in Parkinson’s disease, the dyskinesias initiative reflects our commitment to research than can quickly translate into benefits for the approximately one million Americans living with Parkinson’s disease.”

The RFA seeks a broad-based approach to dyskinesias that includes:  understanding the mechanisms that underlie dyskinesias at the molecular level; testing the impact of interventions on the neuroanatomical and neurophysiological substrates of dyskinesias; exploring the mechanisms of various subtypes of dyskinesias; developing animal models, and seeking novel therapies, both preventive and ameliorative.  Researchers should submit letters of intent by March 14, 2003, with applications due April 14, 2003.  Both should be submitted by email only to A complete application coversheet and PDF file may be downloaded from the MJFF Web site,  Funding of grant awards is anticipated in the fall of 2003.  In addition to funding from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, The Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation Inc. provided a $100,000 grant for this research initiative.  

The Dyskinesias program is one element of the Foundation’s research agenda to eliminate Parkinson’s disease within the decade.  At the end of 2002, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research had funded more than $17 million in research aimed at finding a cure for the disease.  In addition, the Foundation partnered with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on their funding of an incremental $9.5 million in “Fast Track” research projects.

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