BUSM and BMC to Investigate Risk Factors for Parkinson’s Disease

Michael J. Fox Foundation sponsored study seeks people without Parkinson’s disease to participate in landmark biomarker study

Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) announced that they will participate as one of 23 clinical sites of the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative’s new arm to study populations who may be at increased risk for developing Parkinson’s disease (PD). The additional arm of the $55 million landmark observational clinical study was added to better understand potential risk factors of the disease. People who volunteer will not have any of the classic motor problems associated with PD. The “pre-motor” arm of PPMI will enroll participants over the age of sixty, who do not have Parkinson’s disease and are living with either a reduced sense of smell, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) or a mutation in the LRRK2 gene (the single greatest genetic contributor to PD known to date). If one of these risk factors clearly leads to PD, the risk factors could enable earlier detection of PD and open new avenues in the quest for therapies that could slow or stop disease progression.

The initial study was launched in 2010 and is focusing on defining biological markers of PD in order to better diagnose and track PD. Enrollment in the initial study is complete with over six hundred participants. BUSM and BMC have been part of PPMI for three years and are expected to begin enrollment for the new, pre-motor arm of the study immediately.

“Understanding risk factors for Parkinson’s disease could help to identify therapies that may prevent the onset of motor symptoms in future generations of PD patients,” said Samuel Frank, MD, principal investigator. “We are proud to participate in this innovative research and will look to the local community to continue to volunteer for this key study.”

People can easily get involved in this research by being one of 10,000 individuals needed to complete a brief online survey about their sense of smell. People over the age of 60 who do not have Parkinson’s disease are needed to take the survey at https://www.michaeljfox.org/get-involved/smellsurvey-screen.php. Most respondents will be sent a scratch-and-sniff smell test and brief questionnaire in the mail to be completed at home. Some individuals may also be asked to undergo more extensive testing.

“In the third year of PPMI, it is evident that a large-scale biomarker study is not only possible in Parkinson’s disease, but is already yielding scientific insights that could help transform the field of Parkinson’s research,” said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “None of this progress would be possible without the willing volunteers who donate their time and energy to the pursuit of a cure.”

To learn more about this study, visit the website www.ppmi-info.org or call 617-638-7745.


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