Boston Hospital To Participate In Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s Research

The new study will look at early markers for the disease.

Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center announced last week that they will be participating in a study called the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) which will examine pre-Parkinson’s markers in patients who do not show symptoms of the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological disease that causes dopamine levels in the brain to decrease and neurons to misfire, resulting in loss of movement control. One of the most public cases, of course, is actor Michael J. Fox, whose foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, is sponsoring the study.

While the study looking into the identifying Parkinson’s markers initially launched in 2010, and Boston Medical Center has been involved for the past three years, the new part of the study involving patients who do not show symptoms is just beginning. Boston Medical Center and Boston School of Medicine are expected to start enrolling participants immediately.

The study will not involve patients who are experiencing the loss of motor control usually associated with Parkinson’s. Instead, this study will focus on “pre-motor” markers, and involve patients over sixty who do not have the disease but report decreased sense of smell, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, or have a mutation in the LRRK2 gene which is believed to be the greatest genetic contributor to Parkinson’s.

Once these markers are studied, researchers believe that it will be easier for medical professionals to detect and treat Parkinson’s early, and possibly open up new opportunities to slow or stop the progression of the disease.

Dr. Todd Sherer, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research said in a press release on Thursday:

“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. None of this progress would be possible without the willing volunteers who donate their time and energy to the pursuit of a cure.”

The study is looking for 10,000 people over sixty years old to participate by taking an online survey about their sense of smell.