Are there different types of Parkinson’s disease?

An Interview With ADPA Researcher, Dr. Abdulmunaim Eid About Parkinson’s Subtypes

Dr. Abdulmunaim Eid, APDA-funded researcher exploring Parkinson’s subtypes.
Dr. Abdulmunaim Eid, APDA-funded researcher exploring Parkinson’s subtypes.

Our A Closer Look blog is designed to educate, inform, and inspire you through a variety of topics and insights about Parkinson’s disease (PD). One way we do that is through our Interview with APDA Researchers series within this blog so you can get a closer look at some of the dedicated APDA-funded researchers who are working tirelessly to understand this disease.

Today we introduce you to Dr. Abdulmunaim Eid. He is a recipient of a 2023-2024 APDA Post-doctoral fellowship, performing his research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. He is interested in understanding the clinical differences among people with PD and correlating those differences to variabilities seen on MRI and PET brain imaging in PD. We asked him some questions about his work.

Q: What is the overarching goal of your research? What do you hope to find out?

A: We know that Parkinson’s disease (PD) manifests differently in different people. People with PD present with an array of symptoms that vary in their severity and progression over time. This means that to find the best treatments and prediction tools, we need to take these differences into consideration. Our group analyzed the clinical and behavioral data for hundreds of people with PD and found that PD can be thought of as three different diseases or subtypes based on a few key clinical features. We labeled these subtypes as: “motor only,” “cognitive & motor,” and “psychiatric and motor.” 

My current project is focused on understanding these subtypes beyond the clinical features. Specifically, I want to answer the question: are these subtypes different in their brain anatomy, function, and pathology? The tool I use for this is neuroimaging i.e., brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). I hope to find specific regions and networks in the brain that are affected in each of the subtypes giving it a unique signature, which will unravel the biological basis of these different subtypes under the PD umbrella.

Q: Could you describe how you perform your studies?

A: After we enroll participants with Parkinson’s disease (as well as healthy controls), we collect clinical, behavioral, imaging, and other types of data at the first visit and every 2-3 years thereafter. I participate in the collection of the data among a big group of scientists, clinicians, nurses, and research coordinators. I also participate in the analysis of the data and the interpretation of the results. I’m particularly interested in the imaging data. I analyze this data using specialized software.

This is supplemented by quality control checks that require knowledge of brain anatomy, function, and the details of the specific imaging modalities that we use. This initial analysis aims to convert the raw MRI and PET output into very specific and meaningful measurements of different brain structures and entities. These measurements could be the size of a certain structure, the strength of the connection between brain regions of interest, or the amount of a particular protein in the brain, to give a few examples. I then take these measurements and use statistical models to answer the scientific questions I’m interested in. Next, I interpret the output of these statistical models which puts the results in the context of what we already know about PD and its biology.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what you have found out so far?

A: The work that was done by Dr. Meghan Campbell and other scientists before I joined the group revealed the three PD clinical subtypes mentioned above. In addition, this classification proved to have a good prognostic value, as these subtypes have different rates of dementia and death. We have collected most of the imaging studies we need to answer the specific questions I’m interested in, and have done a significant portion of the initial analyses. However, we still haven’t reached the stage of statistical modeling to be able to give concrete results. We expect part of this will be done within a few months, and the rest by the end of the second year of the APDA grant.

Q: What fuels your passion for research?

A: Two motivations drive me in my professional career: serving people and intellectual curiosity. Research checks both boxes. In the clinic, you help one person at a time, but in research, you can help many people at the same time. My goal is to better understand the biology of PD to get us closer to effective personalized treatments.  In addition, studying the brain using neuroimaging is at the intersection of many disciplines including clinical and basic neurosciences, psychology, physics, mathematics, and computer science which makes it incredibly intellectually stimulating and challenging at the same time, so double the fun!

Tips and Takeaways

APDA is able to fund researchers like Dr. Eid because of the generous donations we receive from dedicated people like you. If you would like to support critical work like this, please consider making a donation of any size today. Thank you.

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