APDA Proudly Supports New 2023 – 2024 Parkinson’s Research

Exciting New Parkinson’s Research is Underway

On September 7, 2023, APDA announced 20 new Parkinson’s disease (PD) research grants, for a total of $1.975 million in funding for the year ahead. Our grant recipients are working tirelessly to understand the complexities of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and to develop new treatments and eventually, a cure. We are honored to support these researchers and their innovative and inspiring  work.

Our president and CEO, Leslie A. Chambers, explains “Research support is a critical part of APDA’s tagline ‘Strength in optimism. Hope in progress’. We know that our funding allows researchers to jumpstart their ideas and obtain significant pilot data and initial proof of concept. In many instances, this then allows them to get further funding from the National Institutes of Health and other funding institutions.” She continues, “We are very proud of our critical mission of providing seed funding for innovative projects that may never have gotten off the ground.”

These new grants have been awarded in the form of two Post-Doctoral Fellowships, seven Research Grants, two Diversity in Parkinson’s Disease Research grants, eight APDA Centers for Advanced Research, and one George C. Cotzias Memorial Fellowship.

We know you are as eager as we are for PD research progress, which is why we are sharing this news with you. Below, we present the research projects APDA will be funding and specify why they are important for the PD community. You can click on any of the researchers below to learn more about them and their exciting work.

The 2023-2024 APDA Parkinson’s Disease Research Grants and Fellowships:

The George C. Cotzias Fellowship

The George C. Cotzias Fellowship is APDA’s most prestigious award and is granted to a young physician-scientist with exceptional promise who is establishing a career in research, teaching, and clinical services relevant to PD. The award spans three years and is designed to fund a long-range project focused on PD.

This year’s awardee is:

Krithi Irmady, MD, PhD

RNA regulation in Parkinson’s disease and levodopa-induced dyskinesia
Rockefeller University, New York, NY

Major question to be answered:

How do changes in RNA and RNA-binding proteins contribute to the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and levodopa-induced dyskinesia (LID) in the dopamine-dependent regions of the brain?

Why is this important?

This research will analyze the changes in RNA and RNA-binding proteins that occur in people with PD and specifically those with LIDs. LIDs are poorly understood and are a difficult to treat side effect of levodopa. By understanding these RNA changes that occur in those with LIDs, new paradigms of treatment can be designed to address LIDs.

Diversity in Parkinson’s Disease Research Grants

This grant supports the study of the health inequities and/or differences among under-studied PD communities, across the spectrum of ethnicity, ancestry, geography, socioeconomic conditions, and gender.

This year’s awardees are:

Karen Hegland, PhD

Low utilization of deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy among minoritized individuals with Parkinson disease
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Major questions to be answered:

  1. What are the patient characteristics that can predict the suitability of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery?
  2. How do patients perceive the key factors influencing their acceptance of DBS?
  3. Are there ethnic disparities in the quality of life experienced by individuals who have undergone DBS surgery?

Why is this important?

By utilizing a mixed methods approach, the study aims to uncover patient predictors for DBS surgery, explore patient perspectives on DBS acceptance factors, and analyze potential ethnic differences in the quality of life among DBS recipients. This knowledge could empower healthcare providers to remove barriers and ensure equitable access to advanced care options, ultimately enhancing the well-being of all PD patients.

Laura Andrea Prieto, PhD

Physical Activity Among Latino/a People with Parkinson Disease and their Care Partners
University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, WI

Major question to be answered:

How do individual and community-based factors impact the engagement of physical activity, encompassing motivation, access, and participation, among Latino/a individuals with PD and their care partners?

Why is this important?

This research aims to uncover the intricate influences on physical activity engagement within the Latino/a PD community and among their care partners. By exploring the factors that affect physical activity access and participation, the research strives to enhance the well-being of Latino/a individuals with PD. Furthermore, insights into care partners’ roles and the potential for broader applications to other underrepresented groups could lead to more inclusive physical activity programs.

Post-Doctoral Fellowships

This two-year fellowship is awarded to support post-doctoral scientists, who recently completed their graduate degree work, and whose research holds promise to provide new insights into the pathophysiology, etiology, and treatment of PD.

This year’s awardees are:

Abdulmunaim Eid, MD

The Neurobiological Basis of Parkinson’s Disease Clinical Subtypes
Washington University, St. Louis, MO

Major question to be answered:

What are the biological differences between distinct clinical subtypes of PD such as ‘motor only’ ‘cognitive & motor’ and ‘psychiatric & motor’ using advanced neuroimaging methods?

Why is this important?

This research addresses the complexity of PD which encompasses motor, cognitive, and psychiatric issues. Identifying and understanding clinical subtypes is pivotal for predicting disease progression accurately and tailoring treatments for individual patients. By revealing the underlying biological differences using advanced neuroimaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), this study contributes to a deeper understanding of PD subtypes.

Naemeh Pourshafie, PhD

Enhancing neuronal resilience to neurodegeneration via the epigenetic-metabolic axis
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Major question to be answered:

What is the intricate interplay between the proteins a-synuclein and tau, and how do they collectively contribute to cognitive decline in PD and related conditions?

Why is this important?

In many people, abnormalities of both a-synuclein and tau are responsible for cognitive difficulties in PD dementia and Dementia with Lewy bodies. This research will investigate the complex relationship between these two proteins and how their gene expressions are modulated, with the goal of uncovering potential avenues for protecting neurons from their damaging effects.

Research Grants

The APDA Research Grant is awarded to investigators performing innovative PD research.

This year’s awardees are:

Andrew Arrant, PhD

Investigating the Role of Progranulin in Synucleinopathy
University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL

Major questions to be answered:

  1. What is the relationship between progranulin and a-synuclein aggregation?
  2. Does this relationship worsen neuronal loss, inflammation, lysosomal dysfunction, and behavioral deficits associated with a-synuclein aggregation?

Why is this important?

This research will investigate whether low progranulin levels contribute to a-synuclein aggregation. Understanding this relationship could provide crucial knowledge for potential treatments addressing neurodegeneration in PD. Progranulin-boosting treatments are already in clinical trial for other conditions, and these potential treatments could also be tested in people with PD.  

Briana De Miranda, PhD

Cdk5 inhibition as a protective mechanism against environmental toxicant induced Parkinson’s disease
University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL

Major question to be answered:

Does inhibiting cyclin dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) offer protection against PD pathology that is triggered by trichloroethylene (TCE) exposure?

Why is this important?

Exposure to TCE has been linked to an increased risk of PD, but it is not understood how this happens. This study will investigate whether increased Cdk5 activity is involved. By understanding how TCE increases PD risk, then steps could be taken, such as decreasing Cdk5 activity, to mitigate this risk. Of note, there are ongoing clinical trials of cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors in certain cancers and these potential treatments could be tested in people with PD as well.

Jeff Eells, PhD

Mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 infection induced dopamine neuron damage
East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

Major question to be answered:

Does SARS-CoV-2 infection harm dopamine neurons?

Why is this important?

The potential relationship between SARS-CoV-2 infection and PD risk has been incompletely explored. This study will increase our understanding of how the virus might damage dopamine neurons or influence the accumulation of the PD-related protein a-synuclein.

Enrico Opri, PhD

Stimulation induced evoked potentials for guided intra and post-operative functional mapping.
The Regents of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Major question to be answered:

Can deep brain stimulation (DBS) local evoked potentials (DLEP) effectively enhance the precision of anatomic targeting during asleep DBS surgery, providing improved mapping information for clinical targeting?

Why is this important?

Using DLEPs to target the precise brain location for electrode placement during asleep DBS surgeries offers a potential alternative to doing awake surgeries. Furthermore, the study will test the predictive power of the intraoperative DLEP-based localization in informing which DBS contacts provide the patient with the best motor therapeutic benefit post-operatively. Successful integration of DLEP-based mapping could enhance targeting and programming accuracy and thereby improve treatment outcomes.

Nikhil Panicker, PhD

Using IPSC models to interrogate Inflammasome-mediated pathogenesis in Parkinson’s Disease
Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH

Major question to be answered:

How does the immune response contribute to the spread of a-synuclein in PD?

Why is this important?

Recent studies suggest that the body’s immune system may play a role in PD pathology. Excessive inflammation in the brain, caused by immune cells known as microglia, has been linked to PD progression. The NLRP3 inflammasome, a complex of proteins, appears to be overactivated in microglia in PD. This study will explore whether reducing inflammation within microglia can protect neurons from accumulating a-synuclein. This approach can open new avenues of PD treatment.

Satya Surabhi, PhD

The role of Lamp1 in age-related neurodegenerative diseases
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY

Major question to be answered:

How does fruit fly Lamp1 impact the mechanism of a-synuclein clearance in the brain?

Why is this important?

Lamp1 is responsible for clearance of proteins in the fruit fly and may resemble the PD genetic risk factor GBA1. This research will use the fruit fly model to understand Lamp1’s role in a-synuclein clearance thereby furthering our understanding of PD neurodegeneration.

William Zeiger, MD, PhD

Mechanisms of posterior cortical circuit dysfunction and cognitive impairment in a mouse model of PD
University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

Major questions to be answered:

How does the accumulation of a-synuclein in the brain contribute to the dysfunction of brain cells responsible for thinking and memory problems in PD?

Why is this important?

Cognitive dysfunction in PD has a major impact on quality of life. This study will focus on the relationship between a-synuclein accumulation, and the cognitive impairments experienced by PD patients with the goal of finding ways to treat this difficult symptom.

Tips and Takeaways

Support Our Mission

To support your local APDA Proudly Supports New 2023 – 2024 Parkinson’s Research chapter please click the button below: