315 Days To The Mountain – The Fox Foundation Funding Important Research

This has been an exciting week for positive medical research information being reported for Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. Even though the two are not specifically connected, I continue to read that a breakthrough in either disease could open the door to finding the cure for other neurological diseases.

August 18, 2010
The New York Times printed the letter below from Katie Hood, Chief Executive of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
To the Editor:

Biomarkers’ role in early diagnosis is more widely understood than is their critical importance to drug development. Biomarkers are the key missing link in researchers’ ability to test new treatments that could slow or stop the progression of complex neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (something no current therapy can do).

It is heartening to see the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative make this major leap forward after only six years — particularly as other researchers are embarking on clinical studies seeking biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease, with the initiative as a scientific precedent. We hope that this will encourage drug development stakeholders — private philanthropies, government and the pharmaceutical industry — to prioritize biomarker discovery.

It is an expensive, high-stakes investment, but the ultimate payoff could be life-transforming treatments for patients, something that they and their loved ones would argue is well worth the risk.

Katie Hood
Chief Executive
Michael J. Fox Foundation
for Parkinson’s Research
New York, Aug. 12, 2010

On August 16, 2010, the following article was released by a research consortium studying the immune system as it relates to Parkinson’s Disease. This study has spanned the last 20 years and involves results from as many as 4,000 volunteers. There is now convincing evidence in their clinical research that the immune system may play a role in the disease.  

Immune System Genes Linked To Parkinson’s Disease
August 16, 2010
Source: Medical News Today

An international team of researchers conducting a genome-wide association study (GWAS) has discovered that common variants in immune system genes are linked to Parkinson’s disease.
The study was the work of the NeuroGenetics Research Consortium, led by Dr Haydeh Payami, a research scientist at the Health Wadsworth Center and professor in the School of Public Health, both in the New York State Department of Health. The Consortium wrote a paper on the study that was published online in Nature Genetics on 15 August.
One of the Consortium clinical directors, Dr Cyrus Zabetian, associate professor of neurology at the University of Washington and VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Stewart Factor at Emory University, told the media that for some years now scientists have seen “subtle hints” that immune function and Parkinson’s disease might be linked:
“But now we have much more convincing evidence of this and a better idea of which parts of the immune system might be involved,” he added.
For the study, the researchers examined over 2,000 volunteer patients with Parkinson’s and nearly 2,000 healthy volunteers from clinics in Oregon, Washington, New York and Georgia.
Payami thanked the volunteers for their help, many of whom had been with the study for nearly 20 years:
“This type of research could not be done if it weren’t for the willing and dedicated individuals who volunteer as research subjects,” she said.
Payami and colleagues scanned the genomes of all 4,000 volunteers. They also assessed a number of clinical and environmental factors that might contribute to the development and progress of Parkinson’s disease and its complications.
They wrote that they replicated already published links with three genes: SNCA, MAPT, and GAK, and detected new links with common variants in the HLA region that was “uniform across all genetic and environmental risk strata and was strong in sporadic … and late-onset [Parkinson’s] disease”.
The HLA (human leukocyte antigen) region of the human genome is home to a large number of immune system genes that are important for recognizing foreign agents and differentiating them from the body’s own tissue. HLA molecules also help ensure that the immune system does not attack the body’s own tissue.
However, this part of the immune system does not always work as well as it should: certain HLA variants are linked to increased risk of disease, or higher protection against them, while other variants can trigger autoimmune disorders where the immune system can’t distinguish between the body’s own tissue and foreign agents and attacks both with equal force.
For example, the neurological autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis, is linked to the gene HLA-DR.
Based on this finding, Payami and colleagues said they plan to take a fresh look at the possible role of infection, inflammation and autoimmunity in Parkinson’s disease.
Their work could help find better drugs for treating Parkinson’s. For example, we already know that some people who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, have a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s, but this effect is not the same in everyone and NSAIDs can also have side effects. A closer investigation of the relevant gene variants could help develop more selective treatments for Parkinson’s.
The team will also be investigating some other genes they came across in their GWAS but they now need to confirm a link with Parkinson’s.
They will also be “mining” the huge piles of data from the study to look for evidence of gene-environment interactions, for instance there may be triggers in the environment that switch certain genes related to Parkinson’s on and off; such discoveries also help in the search for more personalized treatments.
Financial backing for the study came from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and a Edmond J. Safra Global Genetic Consortium grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is playing an important role in these research studies. They are providing important grant monies to help continue the important research.

If your life has not been touched by Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s Disease, odds are that it will. Please join Parker’s Climb in our efforts to raise funds to continue important research towards a cure for both.

Pamela & Geoffrey

2 thoughts on “315 Days To The Mountain – The Fox Foundation Funding Important Research”

  1. Dear Pam,

    Add oil for the climbing! I know it will be harsh, but I am sure you and Geoffrey can make it!

    By the way, I am not sure if you heard of the news ” HK tourists killed in Manila bus hijacking” yesterday…
    Not only it makes me extremely sad and cried in front of the television for this tradegy, but also remind me the invaluable of life! We should say thank you for what we now have – even with a healthy body, a good family, lover, friends…We will never know which day we will lose it! So, Pam, wish you have a good walk and share the invaluable time with your friends and Geoffrey, even when the time you are facing difficulties..=]

    Take care!!

    Best Regards,
    —– Original

    1. Sam, thank you for your kind words. It is only because of friends like you that we can make this kind of commitment!
      I too am saddened by the tragedy in Manila. The loss of life can never be replaced. I pray for the families of these innocent tourist.
      We live in a harsh world sometimes – but we have to keep the faith that slowly we can bring love and peace.

      See you at the top of the mountain Sam – my good friend!
      Pam & Geoff

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