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Baylor College of Medicine

Parkinson’s disease study focuses on risk factors

Graciela Gutierrez


Houston, TX -

To help researchers understand potential risk factors for Parkinson’s disease, the Parkinson Disease Center and Movement Disorder Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) will participate in the new arm of the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative’s (PPMI) study sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).

The PPMI study, launched in 2010 and funded by a consortium of 13 industry partners in conjunction with MJFF, was created to define biomarkers of the disease and now seeks to better understand potential risk factors. BCM has been participating since the study’s launch.

This new arm of the study is specifically focusing on three potential risk factors: a reduced sense of smell (hyposmia); rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD); or a mutation in the LRRK2 gene (the single most important genetic contributor to PD).

BCM is one of 23 official clinical sites taking part in the new portion of the study that is now enrolling those who are over 60, do not have Parkinson’s disease and are living with any one of these potential risk factors.

Validating these risk factors could not only enable earlier detection of the disease, but open new avenues in the quest for therapies that could slow or stop the disease progression.

"Identifying biomarkers that help us diagnose the disease early is one of the major goals of PD research," said Dr. Joseph Jankovic, professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson Disease Center and Movement Disorder Clinic at BCM. "We are proud to have been selected as one of the few centers involved in PPMI as well as the new arm of the study designed to validate the earliest markers for PD, such as loss of smell which often precedes the onset of typical motor symptoms of PD, such as tremor, slowness of movement and stiffness of muscles, by several years of decades."

Those interested in volunteering are asked to first complete a brief online survey or call (877) 525-PPMI. Qualifying participants will then be sent a scratch-and-sniff smell test and brief questionnaire to be completed at home. Some individuals may also be asked to undergo more extensive testing.

Those selected for the study will be put in contact with a research coordinator at a participating center closest to them. People living in Houston will work with the Parkinson Disease Center and Movement Disorder Clinic at BCM.

"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, Ph.D., 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."

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