PDF Contributing Author:

James Beck, Ph.D., Vice President, Scientific Affairs

Bio

James Beck, Ph.D., is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Dr. Beck has led PDF's scientific affairs since he joined the organization in 2008. In this role, he oversees PDF’s research grants programs, including management of programs that support research centers, individual investigators, fellows and collaborative projects. View Dr. Beck's full biography on the PDF website at www.pdf.org/bio_beck.

Articles by this Author:


What Can Alzheimer’s Tell us About Parkinson’s?

From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs Understanding how Parkinson’s disease starts and how it progresses remain two of the key unanswered questions about the disease. This is why a recent story in the New York Times caught my eye. The article described how two independent groups of scientists found evidence that Alzheimer’s disease may spread from brain cell to brain cell much like a virus. These scientists engineered mice to make a human form of a protein called tau in only one small part of the brain. Clumps of the tau protein are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease…. read more Read More

Notes from AAN 2011, Part II: Which Doctors Treat Parkinson’s?

From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs As mentioned last week, this year the American Academy of Neurology held its annual convention in Honolulu, Hawaii, attracting nearly 7,000 neurologists and neuroscientists. I wanted to provide you with an update of interesting and new developments that were presented at the meeting last week, in particular, three studies which discussed whom people with living with Parkinson’s disease see for their care. #1-The first was a health economics presented by Marcy Tarrants, Ph.D., of Teva Neuroscience and her colleagues (presentation P01.087). This group examined the records of newly-filled prescriptions for people diagnosed… read more Read More

GMP Stem cells

A recent press release by the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine announced the award of $6 million to the lab of Xianmin Zeng, Ph.D., of the Buck Institute for Age Research and The City of Hope, a small biotech research/treatment center in Californina, to generate human stem cells that may one day be suitable for clinical treatment in Parkinson’s. What Dr. Zeng’s lab has accomplished – and now has funding to try on a large scale – is the ability to grow and differentiate stems cells using defined culture conditions – an important aspect of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) that… read more Read More

WPC Science Day Two: Genetics Updates

From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs Here are some additional scientific updates from this week’s 2nd World Parkinson Congress (WPC). Michael Schlossmacher, M.D., reported the results of his recent experiments that demonstrate that mutations in the GBA gene, which were recently identified as a major risk factor for Parkinson’s disease (PD), actually contribute to an increase in the levels of alpha-synuclein in nerve cells. Alpha-synuclein is the protein that accumulates in dying nerve cells and is the hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. This result provides a biological explanation as to the significance of these GBA mutations and their relevance… read more Read More

WPC Science Day Zero: Orthostatic Hypotension

From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs Yesterday, an industry-sponsored session for clinicians and scientists was held prior to the official start of 2nd World Parkinson Congress. Largely a review of current medical management of PD, the session included one tidbit that I found particularly interesting – a comment made by Mark Stacy, M.D. He said that orthostatic hypotension, that is low blood pressure upon standing, is the most common, unrecognized symptom of PD. Up to 40 percent of people with PD experience orthostatic hypotension. Drugs that are currently approved to treat hypotension, like midodrine, work, but may work… read more Read More

Sham Surgery

In clinical trials that test new drugs for Parkinson’s disease, the process is fairly straightforward: some people get the real stuff and others get a sugar or placebo pill. It looks identical to the pill containing the new drug, but doesn’t offer the new compound. Here everyone (the person with Parkinson’s and physician) enters the trial knowing that a certain amount of deception is necessary from the outset….no one knows which pill is which. That is a good thing scientifically. There is an overwhelming consensus that double-blinded experiments, in which participants are randomly assigned to receive a placebo, result in… read more Read More