The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) has awarded approximately $1 million to fund five projects that will investigate 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 program was launched in February 2003 and generated 37 applications from seven countries. All five of the projects chosen for funding are affiliated with institutions outside of the United States.
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 five to 10 years of treatment with levodopa, approximately 80 percent of patients will develop uncontrollable movements, or dyskinesias, a major source of disability in their lives. In addition, the development of these same movements in the absence of levodopa therapy as a side effect of cell replacement therapy is now regarded as a critical roadblock to that therapy’s ultimate success. Each of the projects funded under this program attempts to better understand and manage dyskinesias, potentially resulting in significant improvement in the quality of life for patients.
“Zeroing in on ways to control or prevent dyskinesia is crucial. Gaining this insight would make a dramatic impact on the daily lives of Parkinson’s patients today,” said Deborah W. Brooks, MJFF executive director.
The grant portfolio will support investigation into several different hypotheses relating to dyskinesia. Dr. Patrik Brundin, MD, PhD will study graft-induced dyskinesias (GID), a side effect of cell transplants. Using animal models, he will attempt to isolate the variables in the grafting process that cause this side effect and answer a key question currently interfering with the progress of cell transplantation as a viable PD therapy.
Dr. Robert Chen, PhD will be heading up another project, testing the results of magnetic stimulation on dyskinesia. Still another project, led by Dr. Allan Crossman, PhD, DSc will investigate the role of neuropeptides as potential triggers. Dr. Crossman will study the production of these brain chemicals and how they potentially affect changes in parkinsonism and dyskinesias.
In addition to funding by The Michael J. Fox Foundation, the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation Inc. provided $100,000 in funding for this research initiative.