Parkinson Society Canada

Parkinson Society Canada

November 16, 2010 17:27 ET

Ottawa Scientists Zero in on Causes and Treatment of Parkinson's Through Study of Proteins, Gene Mutations and Potential Drug Treatments

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 16, 2010) - Four Ottawa scientists got a boost for their research into the causes of Parkinson's disease today from Parkinson Society Canada at a celebration hosted by Parkinson Society Ottawa at The Ottawa Hospital. Also honoured were volunteers and donors who raise money through Parkinson SuperWalk. The grants totaling $120,000 were awarded to local researchers Dr. David Park, Dr. Mohammad Parsanejad, Dr. Michael Schlossmacher and Dr. Julianna Tomlinson. The monies will help to identify the causes of Parkinson's and how to improve the quality of life for Canadian's living with this progressive brain disease. Over 600 Ottawans raised $147,906 this September in the annual Parkinson SuperWalk. Nationally, $2.8 million was raised in 89 walk sites across Canada.

Dr. Schlossmacher, a clinician and researcher, best known for his scientific breakthroughs in movement disorders including identifying genetic risk factors for Parkinson's, and Dr. Julianna Tomlinson, a post doctoral fellow in the division of neurosciences with Dr. Schlossmacher, received funding to screen existing drugs to see if they can lower the amount of alpha-synuclein, a protein common in the brain cells of people with Parkinson's. If so, by repositioning these drugs, they can treat people with Parkinson's earlier to slow the disease.

Dr. David Park, Assistant Dean of Research and a Professor in the Department of Cellular Molecular Medicine at the University of Ottawa received a one year $45,000 grant for his pilot project unravelling the interaction between a critical protein called CDK-5, and a second protein called JIP1 in order to better understand what causes brain cells to die. CDK-5 is what Park calls a master signal, which acts like a switch to regulate the death of dopamine-producing neurons. 

Dr. Mohammad Parsanejad, a PhD neuroscience candidate in Dr. Park's lab, received a two year $30,000 Graduate Student Award to investigate DJ-1, a gene which, when mutated, can cause Parkinson's disease.

"We are very proud of the record-breaking results we achieved from this year's Parkinson SuperWalk," said Dennise Taylor-Gilhen, Executive Director, Parkinson Society Ottawa. "People with Parkinson's are encouraged by the fact that monies they and their friends, families and teammates raise, will fund research in our community and this means renewed hope that we will find the clues to this devastating disease."

Parkinson SuperWalk has been held in Ottawa for the past 15 years. While the quest for a cure continues, earlier diagnosis and identifying new therapies that will halt or slow the progression of Parkinson's are two key priorities for Canada's Parkinson's research community.

"Ottawa is home to some of Canada's leading Parkinson's researchers," said Joyce Gordon, President & CEO, Parkinson Society Canada. "Each new biomarker, each new drug therapy, each new protein gets us closer to a better life for people with Parkinson's. We continue to progress one step closer to finding a cure with every project funded through our national research program," added Gordon.

This year, Parkinson Society Canada will contribute $1.3 million to over 30 research and pilot grants, new investigator awards, basic research and clinical fellowships as well as graduate awards to encourage innovative ideas and foster emerging Canadian scientists who choose careers to further understand Parkinson's disease.

Currently there is no cure for Parkinson's disease. Movement is normally controlled by dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between the nerves in the brain. When cells that normally produce dopamine die, the symptoms of Parkinson's appear. 

Since 1965, Parkinson Society Canada has been dedicated to education, support, research and advocacy on behalf of Canadians living with Parkinson's. There are 235 chapters and support groups in Canada.

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