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Parkinson’s Disease Foundation Awards $1.35 Million for Novel Research Projects

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation® (PDF®) is pleased to announce $1.35 million in research grants for 13 novel projects designed to find the cause(s) of and a cure for Parkinson's disease.  Each project takes a fresh look at the science of Parkinson's disease and its symptoms.  For summaries of each one, visit www.pdf.org/en/parkinson_research_grantees.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20111101/DC97663LOGO)

"The Parkinson's Disease Foundation is proud to be funding another A-team of scientific explorers," said PDF Executive Director Robin Anthony Elliott.  "At PDF, we are keenly aware that time is of the essence for people with Parkinson's disease.  That is why we are funding scientists who are getting things done — with original science that will answer questions, solve problems and improve lives."

The projects were selected by PDF's grant review committee, which is composed of scientific experts and lay advocates including committee Chair Robert Burke, M.D., PDF Scientific Director Stanley Fahn, M.D., and PDF People with Parkinson's Advisory Council Vice Chair and Research Advocate Fred Woodlief, D.D.S.  The projects are supported via two key programs, the International Research Grants program and the Research Fellowships program, which respectively support "high-risk/high-reward" research and the work of scientists who are early on in their careers.

Several of this year's award recipients are looking anew at a well-known hallmark of Parkinson's disease – the clumping of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain.  Tim Bartels, M.Sc., Ph.D., and Dennis Selkoe, M.D., of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, for example, have discovered that the natural shape of alpha-synuclein is misunderstood.  Using a PDF International Research Grant, they plan to build on this discovery, creating a way to easily test the difference in shape between alpha-synuclein in healthy people and in people with Parkinson's disease.  This discovery could lead to a useful way to diagnose Parkinson's disease and test new therapies.

Meanwhile Ianai Fishbein, Ph.D., working in the lab of Robert Nussbaum, M.D., at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Institute for Human Genetics, is using a PDF Research Fellowship to study how the body decides how much alpha-synuclein to make.  Dr. Fishbein has found an unexpected way in which the body can prevent too much alpha-synuclein from being made.  He is planning to study and better understand this mechanism, with the hope that it could serve as the first step to making new drugs that might either slow or halt Parkinson's disease.

Dr. Woodlief added, "As both a person living with Parkinson's disease and a medical professional, I found the experience of participating in PDF's scientific review eye-opening and invigorating.  It made me hopeful that PDF-funded scientists are looking at Parkinson's disease in innovative ways that will speed new treatments and a cure for the millions worldwide who, like me, live with its effects each day."

Learn more about the Parkinson's Disease Foundation's investigator-driven Parkinson's disease research projects by visiting www.pdf.org/en/parkinson_research_grantees.  Learn more about the additional Parkinson's disease research that PDF is funding in fiscal year 2013, by visiting www.pdf.org/results_funded.

International Research Grants | $1.16 Million
Promote innovative research projects that have high potential to significantly advance our knowledge of Parkinson's.

Stability of Tetrameric Alpha-synuclein as a Biomarker in Parkinson's
Tim Bartels, M.Sc., Ph.D., and Dennis J. Selkoe, M.D., Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital

Evaluating the Role of Mitochondrial Dynamics in Parkinson's Disease in an In Vivo Vertebrate Model: Real-Time Live Imaging of Mitochondrial Dynamics in Dopamine Neurons in Whole Zebrafish*
Sarah B. Berman, Ph.D., M.D., and Edward Burton M.D., D.Phil., F.R.C.P., University of Pittsburgh

Impact of Low- and High-Frequency Electrical Stimulation on the Inputs, Integrative Properties and Output of the Subthalamic Nucleus*
Mark D. Bevan, Ph.D., Northwestern University

Dissecting the Different Properties of Human Alpha-synuclein Between Dopamine and Nondopamine Neurons In Vivo
Linan Chen, M.D., Ph.D., and Xiaoxi Zhuang, Ph.D., University of Chicago

Cellular Mechanisms of Semaphorin 3E-Plexin-D1 Signaling in Basal Ganglia Circuitry Formation and Neurodegenerative Diseases
Chenghua Gu, D.V.M., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

Identification and Characterization of a Novel Gene for Parkinsonism
Paul Lockhart, Ph.D., and Gabrielle Wilson, Ph.D., Bruce Lefroy Centre, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Royal Children's Hospital, Australia

Small Aromatic Molecules as Novel Inhibitors of Alpha-synuclein Aggregation*
Daniel Segal, Ph.D., Tel Aviv University, Israel

Cyclic GMP Signaling and Experimental Parkinsonism
Anthony R. West, Ph.D., and Kuei-Yuan Tseng, M.D., Ph.D., Rosalind Franklin University

Identification of Genes for Parkinson's in an Isolated Greek Community and a Greek Population Cohort*
Georgia Xiromerisiou, Ph.D., M.D., University of Thessaly, Greece, and Henry Houlden, M.D., M.R.C.P., Ph.D., University College, London, England

Research Fellowships | $190,000
Prepare leaders in Parkinson's research and clinical practice.

Regulation of Alpha-synuclein mRNA Translation in SNCA Expressing Neurons
Ianai Fishbein, Ph.D., UCSF Institute for Human Genetics, University of California, San Francisco

Dopaminergic Neuron Subtype Differences in OXPHOS Capacity and Mitophagy in Response to mtDNA Damage
Alicia Pickrell, Ph.D., Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

The Role of Parkin in Regulating Mitochondrial Dynamics and Homeostasis in Cortical and Dopaminergic Neurons*
Victor Van Laar, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh

Locus Coeruleus as a Substrate for Parkinsonian Cognitive Inflexibility*
Elena Vazey, Ph.D., Medical University of South Carolina

*Denotes projects competitively renewed for a second year of funding

About Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects nearly one million people in the United States and seven to 10 million people worldwide.  Although promising research is being conducted, there is currently no cure for Parkinson's.

About PDF Research
Central to the mission of the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF) is funding research of the highest caliber.  In fiscal year 2013, PDF will contribute $5.3 million towards Parkinson's research programs, funding three research centers, 40 scientific projects and 10 clinical fellows around the world.  A full list of 2013 research projects is available on the PDF website at www.pdf.org/en/results_funded.     

About the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF)
The Parkinson's Disease Foundation® (PDF®) is a leading national presence in Parkinson's disease research, education and public advocacy. We are working for the nearly one million people in the US who live with Parkinson's disease by funding promising scientific research while supporting people living with Parkinson's disease through educational programs and services.  Since its founding in 1957, PDF has dedicated over $96 million to fund the work of leading scientists throughout the world and over $40 million to support national education and advocacy programs.

SOURCE Parkinson's Disease Foundation


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