The Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF) is announced awards totaling more than one million dollars for eleven novel investigator-initiated research projects designed to understand the cause of and find a cure for Parkinson's disease.
Investigator-driven projects are a core piece of PDF's philosophy to empower the community – of scientists, clinicians, people with Parkinson's and health care professionals – to find creative solutions benefitting the seven to 10 million people worldwide living with Parkinson's.
The projects are funded through two key programs: the International Research Grants program and the Research Fellowships program, which both seek to encourage novel ideas by respectively funding "high-risk/high-reward" projects and supporting scientists in the early stages of their careers.
A review committee that was chaired by Robert Burke, M.D., and included PDF's Scientific Director, Stanley Fahn, M.D., chose the 11 projects, which range from basic science investigations of the cellular mechanisms that underlie the disease, to studies of potential new therapies. They also include ideas that may lead to symptomatic relief for the people who are living with Parkinson's today.
For example, Parkinson's research has typically focused on dopamine and its role in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Elena Vazey of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC, will use her research fellowship to cast a wider net, studying the role of norepinephrine released from brain stem neurons and its impact on the brain as a whole.
Initial research suggests that changes in norepinephrine in the brain may contribute to changes in cognition, sleep and mood in Parkinson's. Dr. Vazey's investigations may help us to better understand the impact of brain norepinephrine upon Parkinson's and the potential of norepinephrine-targeted therapies to treat the disease.
Her fellow awardees, Sarah B. Berman and Edward Burton of the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh are using their International Research Grant to investigate a more popular topic, the role of the mitochondria (the power plant of the cell) in Parkinson's. But their approach is unique.
They will look for clues about the mitochondria by observing their movements in transparent zebrafish. By recording the motion of mitochondria as they migrate within the dopamine neurons and axons of a living animal, Dr. Berman and Dr. Burton hope to yield new insights into the role of the mitochondria in Parkinson's.
REHACARE.de; Source: Parkinson's Disease Foundation