CINCINNATI—University of Cincinnati (UC) scientists have received grants totaling $180,000 for research into Parkinson’s disease.
The funding was provided by the Colorado-based Davis Phinney Foundation,whose October 2006 Sunflower Revolutiongala and bike ride in Cincinnati raised $300,000 for Parkinson’s research. All the UC recipients are affiliated with the Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cincinnati and University Hospital,
A $50,000 grant went to Kim Seroogy, PhD, a UC neurology professor, and James Herman, PhD, professor of psychiatry, to continue their research into whether clinical depression accelerates the progression of Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological disorder involving the death of dopamine-producing neurons deep within the brain.
“Depression is very common in Parkinson’s, and is often said to contribute more to the lowered quality of life than the debilitating motor symptoms,” said Seroogy, director of the Selma Schottenstein Harris Laboratory for Research in Parkinson’s. “This is detrimental in and of itself. But it’s also important to understand depression’s effects on disease progression, and whether it exacerbates symptoms and the loss of dopamine cells in the brain.”
Seroogy and Herman will study the phenomenon in rodents exposed to stress that mimics depression.
If their study shows that pre-existing and simultaneous depression increase nerve degeneration, the information can be used to test antidepressants and other drugs that protect the nervous system. “The goal, of course, is to slow neurodegeneration and improve the quality of life for Parkinson’s patients,” Seroogy said.
The Sunflower Revolution also funded a clinical study of the effects of the surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation (DBS) on balance and gait, an animal study tracing development of Parkinson’s disease years after a toxic exposure, and a clinical study to separately measure two aspects of “bradykinesia,” the slowing and constricting of movement and reflexes that are characteristic of Parkinson’s.
DBS involves stimulating an area of the brain associated with movement. Fredy Revilla, MD, head of the Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the Neuroscience Institute, received $45,000 to study how DBS affects balance and gait, in the hope of improving doctors’ ability to determine which patients will benefit most from and how to maximize the effectiveness of the procedure.
Timothy Collier, PhD, professor of neurology, received $40,000 from the foundation and has also been granted access to a unique collection of tissue, at a facility in St. Kitts, West Indies, from animals that developed parkinsonism many years after being exposed to a toxin. The animals’ brains provide a dual-risk model: toxic exposure followed by aging.
“Documentation of parkinsonism that results during a long lifespan—and many, many years after an early toxic exposure—will provide the best evidence yet in support of one likely cause of Parkinson’s,” Collier said. “If we can identify events that occur during the long interval between an initial ‘silent’ exposure and the appearance of symptoms, we may be able to recommend medical or lifestyle changes that could halt the progression of degeneration and prevent the appearance of symptoms.”
In the bradykinesia study, Alberto Espay, MD, an assistant professor of neurology, will apply his $45,000 Davis Phinney funding to separately studying slowness of movement and breadth of motion, to better understand how medications affect the two conditions. “It’s remarkable that bradykinesia, the defining feature of Parkinson’s, remains so poorly understood,” Espay said.
The 2006 Sunflower Revolution ride, which raised $300,000, earlier funded an effort to determine whether deep brain stimulation protects dopamine neurons in rodents affected by Parkinson’s. Headed by Caryl Sortwell, PhD, associate professor of neurology, that study received $120,000.
The Davis Phinney Foundation supports research to understand, prevent and treat Parkinson’s disease, which affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans. In 2006, the foundation named the Neuroscience Institute and Stanford University as its first Davis Phinney research centers.
“We’re proud to support these important and original studies,” said Davis Phinney, a world-renowned cyclist who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 40. “They will further our mission to slow the progression of Parkinson’s, while improving the lives of those who are battling against it.”
This year’s Sunflower Revolution IV events are scheduled for Sept. 7 (gala), Sept. 8 (educational symposium and expo) and Sept. 9 (bike rides of 10, 40 and100 kilometers).
The Neuroscience Institute, a regional center of excellence at the University of Cincinnati and University Hospital, is dedicated to patient care, research, education and the development of new treatments for stroke, brain and spinal tumors, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, trauma, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.