UC San Diego participates in the expansion of the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative

After a decade of groundbreaking research and development, the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) will undergo significant growth. The clinical study is in its most ambitious phase. It will increase its in-clinic participation from 1,400 to 4,004 participants in 2023. This is the latest development in PPMI’s mission of maintaining the largest open-access Parkinson’s data collection in the world.

The University of California San Diego School of Medicine joined PPMI in 2010, just a few months after its launch. It is now one of almost 50 clinical sites around the world that are taking part in the expansion. The global effort aims to identify biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease to promote the development of better treatments and cures, and possibly even prevention.

Michael J., the actor and founder of the Foundation, stated that the Foundation was established in the year 2000 to improve the way Parkinson’s research is done. Fox who was first diagnosed with the disease in the year 1991.

“Two decades later, I’m proud that we’ve managed to meet this challenge and have evolved into more than just a research organization and a place where patients bring their wisdom and passion. PPMI’s expansion focuses on curing Parkinson’s disease as well as discovering a biomarker in the early stages to prevent it from ever affecting another family.

The University of California San Diego School of Medicine is currently accepting people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and those aged 60 years or older who are not affected by the disease but are suffering from certain risk factors. These include genetics, gender and exposure to certain environmental toxic substances.

Participants will be subjected to tests that include neuropsychiatric, motor and cognitive examinations Brain imaging using DaTscan or MRI and blood, urine and DNA testing.

PPMI is seeking additional participants via the internet to join the 4,000 participants of the study in-clinic. The Foundation has established an online platform on which anyone over 18 and without Parkinson’s can take part.

PPMI is changing the field’s understanding of Parkinson’s biology. We have already gained rich data that no previous study has been able to, but there is still much more to discover.”

Douglas Galasko, MD PPMI principal investigator, co-director Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and professor, Department of Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine

The most recent version of the study will benefit from new research tools that were not in use when it was first started, including advanced brain imaging techniques, the latest cognitive tests, and wearable digital devices to track motor movement.

Galasko said that the results will not only provide new biological targets for Parkinson’s disease treatment and also increase the efficacy of clinical trials.

“One of the most significant things we discovered in our initial studies was that Parkinson’s looks slightly different for each person. This variation makes it difficult for clinical trials to assess whether a treatment is working. It is possible to make clinical trials more efficient by developing more precise measures to track the progress of disease. This will enable us to employ less participants and determine if a drug/therapy is going to be effective faster.

Galasko also emphasized the importance of PPMI in the early stages of Parkinson’s. He said that the earlier doctors intervene the earlier, the better chance of slowing the progression of the disease and prolonging the lives of patients.

Variability in the expression of disease has inspired another aspect of the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s plans for recruitment.

Galasko stated, “We are particularly interested in ensuring that the people we hire reflect the diversity among people who reside in San Diego or Southern California.” “A majority of the information we’ve learned about Parkinson’s so far comes from studies that aren’t truly representative of all those who live with the disease. In the next phase of recruitment, we’re trying to better know the symptoms in people from all backgrounds.”

UC San Diego is recruiting from the Southern California region, and works with participants to arrange transportation and lodging for in-clinic visits.

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Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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