PDF allocates nearly $1 million each year to our International Research Grants Program to support novel “high risk/high reward" projects.
The funding allows scientists to test the feasibility of their ideas, while generating the critical preliminary data that will lead to future funding from major institutions such as the National Institutes of Health.
Highlight: Daniel Segal, Ph.D.: Learning from Other Diseases to Find New Treatments
In Parkinson’s disease, the protein that clumps together and causes the disease is called alpha-synuclein. If scientists could stop alpha-synuclein from clumping in the brain, this could potentially provide a new treatment for the disease.
With two years of funding from PDF, Daniel Segal, Ph.D.,of Tel Aviv University, developed a new molecule, based on quinone, a compound that has been shown to inhibit certain cellular pathways, that may be able to do this. His molecule is small enough to fit into the brain, and is similar to another molecule shown to stop clumping in the protein that causes Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Segal found that in a petri dish, this molecule was able to effectively prevent alpha synuclein from clumping together, and that higher doses were more effective than lower doses. Now he is testing the molecule in animal models. His early tests in fruit flies found that treatment with this molecule resulted in improved motility (measured by climbing behavior) in PD fly models containing excess alpha-synuclein in their brains. He now will extend his testing to PD mice models.
If he finds this molecule to be successful, this could mean a promising new therapy for Parkinson’s disease. Of course, clinical testing would have to be done in humans to ensure that the molecule is safe and works the same way in humans as it doesin flies and mice.
Highlight: Dance for Parkinson's: Funding Innovative Research that is Unlikely to Secure Funding Through More Traditional Sources
With funding from PDF, Gammon Earhart, P.T., Ph.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine, is examining the role of partnered dance in Parkinson’s. This study represents one of the first to examine the effectiveness of a long-term, community-based partnered dance exercise program for individuals with Parkinson’s and one of the first to evaluate the effects of exercise by assessing individuals who are off their medication. The initial results are promising, suggesting a clear improvement in disease severity (as assessed by the UPDRS, a rating scale used to measure disease progression) in those who are exercising. Furthermore, this study suggests that the benefits of six months of exercise were greater than those of just three months of exercise, with benefits maintained at 12 months relative to the six-month time point.
This work paves the way for future studies to determine the relative effectiveness of different forms and doses of exercise for people with Parkinson’s and for studies of the mechanisms by which dance may convey benefits.