The study, conducted jointly by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the University of Pennsylvania, aims to uncover biological warning signs of the disease.
A new offshoot of the Parkinson’s Progressive Markers Initiative, co-presented by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the University of Pennsylvania, is seeking Jewish participants of Ashkenazi background as volunteers to test for warning signs of the disease.
Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder usually manifested by a patient’s tremors and communicative skills disruption.
The initiative was started in 2010 but has extended its reach into the search for a specific mutation on the LRRK2 gene, G20195, a mutation more commonly associated with Jews of Ashkenazi origin than the general population.
“The study’s main purpose is to determine biomarkers,” says Dr. Lama Chahine, a neurologist who is co-principal of the investigation, headed up by Dr. Matthew B. Stern, professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Biomarkers are biological warning signs of diseases and possible future physical problems, with cholesterol counts cited as a prime example of what a biomarker is, since cholesterol counts provide a way to prognosticate heart disease.
Determining the biomarkers “will let us be able to determine what kind of tests will be needed to stop” the progress of the disease, says Chahine.
With such a breakthrough, “a treatment will be on the horizon,” she adds.
Since Ashkenazi Jews have been shown to be more prone to gene mutations associated with Parkinson’s as well as Tay-Sachs disease and breast cancer, Penn and Fox researchers are hoping to determine more answers by honing in on this group.
Participants — with or without Parkinson’s — are expected to take tests over a period of three to four years.
The foundation sponsoring the study is named after and was started by the actor from the TV shows Family Ties and Spin City and the Back to the Future film series. Fox has spearheaded campaigns to battle Parkinson’s since he contracted the disease in 1991 at the height of his career.
For information about volunteering and its requirements, call 888-830-6299 or go to: foxtrialfinder.michaeljfox.org.