Parkinson Research Consortium
The PRC is dedicated to funding important projects centered around four very important questions:
The PRC offers a variety of fellowships awarded to students and trainees. These fellowships are made available to give students a unique opportunity to focus their efforts towards specific areas of PD related research.
What are the genetic causes of familial form of PD?
Understanding the cause(s) of PD is complicated by the fact that it appears to have both genetic and environmental causes. A few rare forms of familial PD are caused by single gene mutations. Several have been identified and there are ongoing efforts to identify additional genes. While all forms of familial PD are uncommon, identification is important since it provides insight into how dopamine neurons ultimately die, even with non-familial cases.
The PRC scientists have made the exciting discovery of a new locus for familial PD. They are currently working with a French-Canadian family to identify the exact gene located at this locus linked to PD. They have collected blood samples from 65 individuals from this large Parkinson's family where 14 have been affected with Parkinson's. When the identification of this new gene is made, this knowledge will provide important clues into how PD is initiated and progresses in patients.
Are there susceptibility genes which may contribute to idiopathic PD?
While the identification of familial PD genes is important, the vast majority of PD patients do not have a simple direct link to one gene. In this regard, it is likely that there is a complex series of susceptibility genes, which might predispose individuals to PD with an appropriate (and unfortunate) environmental insult. These genes likely influence how dopamine neurons function. Therefore, fundamental efforts must be made to not only identify these susceptibility genes, but to also identify potential environmental insults.
The PRC scientists are addressing this important question by setting up a sophisticated biological screening system using more simple animals (worms and fish) to identify which genes might make one more susceptible to dopamine neuron loss. By harnessing the power of genetic screens only possible in these lower animals, we can identify genes that are potentially critical for dopaminergic function. Once identified, we can then assess how these genes may potentially make individuals more susceptible to PD.
How do these genes control how dopamine neurons die in PD?
Once factors are identified as described above, it is critical to then understand the mechanisms by which these genes cause death. Several genes that provide a direct link to PD have already been identified. These include recently identified PD genes, DJ-1, PINK1 and LRRK2. How these genes actually cause PD is unknown. The scientists of the PRC have expertise in a wide variety of model animal systems to study these genes in dopamine neuron loss. These systems include the well known mouse system. However, the PRC scientists can also examine these genes in a manner that cannot be readily performed in mice. By using a variety of simpler and surprisingly elegant animal systems including the drosophila fruitfly, the zebra fish, and the C. elegans worm, we can more quickly unravel the mysteries of how these genes provoke the onset of PD. The scientists, by use of a wide variety of genetic and biochemical approaches are dedicated to understanding how these genes may lead to PD.
How can one detect Parkinson's disease?
The PRC biomarker discovery and validation process is focused on the processing of alpha-synuclein in biological fluids, which has been linked to sporadic and heritable forms of PD in over 70 per cent of the cases. Biomarkers are needed for the accurate and reliable diagnosis of persons with an elevated risk of PD, of those who already have PD (versus a look-alike syndrome), and to monitor the rate of progression of the illness.
Through the process of objective marker-based stratification, we envision a more precise diagnosis of PD variants, the planning of cause-directed clinical trials and, ultimately, several management options to change the course of neurodegeneration in PD.
Supporting the Next Generation of Parkinson's Researchers
Every year the PRC, with the very generous support from individuals within our community, come together to create fellowship awards to support our young trainees and students. These fellowships give young researchers the opportunity to work on projects directly related to Parkinson's disease.
We would like to sincerely thank the following individuals, families and organizations for their very generous and continuous support:
- Toth Family
- Crabtree Family
- Audrey Grant
- Shelby Hayter
- Larry Haffner
- Bonnie and Don Poole
- uOttawa Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Social Sciences
- The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
- Carleton University
2018 Parkinson Research Consortium Fellowship Call for Proposals is now available.
Deadline is August 31st
The awards will be ANNOUNCED September 28, 2018 and PRESENTED the week of October 2018 as part of Brain Health Awareness Week.
PRC ROUNDS | Progress in Motion
The PRC scientific community hosts a monthly seminar called - PRC ROUNDS | Research in Motion. This is an opportunity for the members and their students to update each other on the progress related to new findings in Parkinson's disease research.
Bi-Monthly session take place on the last Friday of the month from 2:30-3:30PM; more information can be found at: Seminars & Events.