By Alan and Cherry Zimmerman
Recently, we were asked through the PDF Community Choice Research awards to choose our top priority for Parkinson’s research.
We chose caregiver needs. (See our photo at left, or a larger version here.)
As you may know, PDF spends $5 million a year on research to solve, treat and end Parkinson’s disease. Through the Community Choice Research Awards, PDF asks the community to help identify other unmet needs not being addressed by research.
This Veterans Day, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) honors veterans who have served our country, including those touched by Parkinson’s disease.
In particular, we recognize the veterans on the PDF team who continue to serve the community by helping us to end Parkinson’s disease. Here are a few of their stories.
One day, we hope to offer treatments tailored to the individual needs of each person with Parkinson’s. But how can we do that if we don’t understand how genetics impact Parkinson’s? After all, our genes are part of what make us unique, including how they relate to our health.
This issue came up last week in Nature, when a group of researchers released findings from research in which they analyzed 2,500 genetic studies conducted in 2016 that studied the genes of more than 35 million people. They compared this to a similar analysis from 2009. They found that in 2016, the majority (81 percent) of those 35 million people were of European descent, and the proportion of those of Asian descent increased slightly since the 2009 analysis. Otherwise, most non-European groups are still underrepresented in research.
Why does this matter? Because genetic changes, even if they affect only a small group, help us understand disease overall. By limiting genetics to those of European descent, we could be holding back research and cures for everyone.
PDF is excited to tell you that this week’s announcement of the Nobel Prize in Medicine – awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, Ph.D., of the Tokyo Institute of Technology – has intriguing implications for Parkinson’s research. Dr. Ohsumi received the Nobel Prize for his work to understand autophagy – the way our body’s cells recycle and dispose of waste to stay healthy. About 15 years ago, a PDF-funded research team recognized the importance of Dr. Ohsumi’s groundbreaking discoveries and applied them to Parkinson’s.
Since then and continuing today, PDF scientists have been unraveling the role autophagy plays in Parkinson’s. Dr. Ohsumi’s work was pivotal to PDF advancements and because of your support, PDF-funded discoveries are helping us to understand autophagy and point us toward new therapies.
“I used to be a ‘do-er.’ Now I’m a ‘half do-er.’”
These are the words Kris Gjerde, a PDF Advocate from St. Paul, MN, used to explain why she voted for apathy in the Third PDF Community Choice Research Awards survey. She wants solutions so she can keep doing the things she loves.
Since the survey launched earlier this month, she and more than 500 people with Parkinson’s and care partners have voted for their research priorities, ranging from sleep issues and anxiety, to gait difficulties and dyskinesia.
Why is Kris’ feedback — and yours — so important?
At PDF, our strategy for ending Parkinson’s is to build a team of leaders in research, health care and the patient community and mobilize them to work together toward the cure. That’s one reason we were excited to see 100 members of the PDF team together at the 4th World Parkinson Congress (WPC) in Portland, OR.
One place our team showed their collaborative spirit was in the poster presentations. Throughout the week, the PDF team presented posters sharing advancements in PD research and care.
Many PDF posters, several of which are highlighted below, were authored by teams comprising PD professionals (scientists, doctors, nurses), staff and PDF patient leaders.