The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) has announced a new $2 million research initiative aimed at investigating the role inflammation plays in the process of nigral cell death in Parkinson’s disease. In studying inflammation, the Foundation seeks to build on research for other brain disorders, most notably, Alzheimer’s disease. To date, there has been little definitive research performed on the role of inflammation in Parkinson’s disease.
Inflammation is an immune system response to injury or disease, but chronic inflammation itself can cause damage to tissues. In Parkinson’s disease there is evidence of an inflammatory process (known as gliosis) in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra. Still, scientists are not certain whether this observed inflammation is a cause, contributing to cell death, or an effect, a secondary response to continuing neural cell death. Recent observations suggest that neuroinflammation may indeed contribute to the neurodegenerative process in Parkinson’s disease, similar to what has been suggested in Alzheimer’s disease.
“Understanding the role inflammation plays in Parkinson’s disease could be a crucial first step that has the potential to quickly translate into exciting new treatment options for PD patients, given the array of anti-inflammatory drug therapies currently on the market,” said J. William Langston, MD, CEO of the Parkinson’s Institute and chief scientific advisor for the Fox Foundation.
“While we will continue to pursue promising basic and translational research as we press for a cure, the Fox Foundation is also stepping up its efforts to find novel therapies that can quickly benefit PD patients,” said Deborah W. Brooks, MJFF executive director.
With this program, the Foundation seeks to build on the understanding of the inflammatory process and expertise of scientists in Alzheimer’s and related research. This initiative seeks to approach the issue from multiple angles, including:
- Evaluating the prevalence of anti-inflammatory drug usage in relation to the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease in patient populations;
- Exploring the inflammatory mechanisms on a molecular and cellular level;
- Identifying immunosuppressive agents that enhance survival of cell grafts in the nigrostriatal system; and
- Exploring immune status as a biomarker of Parkinson’s disease progression through imaging of the inflammatory response.
Letters of intent should be submitted no later than February 11, 2003, with applications due on March 10, 2003.