Download a PDF of Parkinson Canada Research Program Awards for the current cycle.


Biomarkers

A new way to measure Parkinson’s progression
Antonio Strafella, Professor
University Health Network (University of Toronto)
Pilot Project
$45,000 over 1 year

At the University of Toronto, Dr. Antonio Strafella conducts imaging studies on the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease. He’s using a new tracer, or chemical, that can highlight changes in the brain that show up on Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans. Strafella is studying the density of the synapses, or connections, in brain cells to see if a reduction in that density, measured over time, could serve as a non-invasive tool to diagnose Parkinson’s disease or differentiate between different types of the condition.

Neurons that fire together, wire together
Cricia Rinchon, student
Krembil Research Institute, University Health Network
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over 2 years

Using two techniques for electrically stimulating parts of the brain, Cricia Rinchon is exploring the possibility that if they are stimulated, the cells that make up a network in the brain will work together to correct the damage Parkinson’s disease has done.

Sniffing out Parkinson’s disease
Dr. Johannes Frasnelli, Professor
University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières
Pilot Project Grant
$40,000 over 1 year

At the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, Dr. Johannes Frasnelli is studying a sensory system most people don’t even know they have. He’s investigating the trigeminal chemosensory system, which allows us to detect spiciness, freshness and burning sensations, to see if the system remains intact in people with Parkinson’s disease when they lose their sense of smell. If it does, it could become an important tool for detecting who is at risk of Parkinson’s.


Causes

Shortening the path to a successful treatment
Alexandre Boutet
University of Toronto (University Health Network)
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over 2 years

Alexandre Boutet, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, is using fMRI brain imaging technology to refine the way in which deep brain stimulation (DBS) is adjusted to meet an individual patient’s needs. By mapping out the active centres in a patient’s brain when the DBS device is turned on, he expects to reduce this adjustment period from as long as a year to a single day.

Testing theories in a new experimental model
Dr. Philippe Huot, Assistant Professor
McGill University
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 1 year

At McGill University, Dr. Philippe Huot, an assistant professor, is developing and experimental model of Parkinson’s disease that will allow researchers to investigate changes in brain cells that occur at the molecular level. Huot and his team will be concentrating on alpha-synuclein, a critical protein that, when misshapen, prevents them from functioning properly and leads to clumps or aggregates in dopamine-producing brain cells that lead to their death.

Misbehaving proteins
Dr. Lorraine Kalia, Assistant Professor & Clinician Scientist
University of Toronto
Pedaling for Parkinson’s New Investigator Award
New Investigator Award
$90,000 over 2 years

At the University of Toronto, Dr. Lorraine Kalia, a neurologist and neuroscientist, is investigating the role that a protein called alpha-synuclein plays in a familial type of Parkinson’s disease caused a by a mutation in the LRRK2 gene. Although large clumps of alpha-synuclein have been incriminated in the death of dopamine-producing brain cells, Kalia is investigating smaller deposits of the protein to see if their misbehavior contributes to the death of brain cells and patient symptoms.

Improving damage detection in the brain
Jean-François Trempe
McGill University
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 2 years

Jean-François Trempe, an assistant professor at McGill University’s Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, is studying a gene that normally assesses the health of cells and signals when unhealthy ones should be eliminated. This regulatory mechanism appears to be distorted in cells affected by Parkinson’s disease. If this gene’s behaviour could be stabilized, the brain cells’ built-in system for keeping themselves healthy might be restored.

Understanding where to hit Parkinson’s disease
Dr. Ying Wang
McGill University
Basic Research Fellowship
$100,000 over 2 years

Using specially designed, genetically altered mice, McGill University postdoctoral researcher Ying Wang is demonstrating what type of age-dependent decline of nerve cell function could cause Parkinson’s disease. By inducing Parkinson’s and then using a drug to reverse the disease in her mouse model, she hopes to uncover whether and to what extent the damaged nerve cells can regain lost function and recover.

Establishing a new link between brain and body
Simon Wing, Professor
McGill University
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 2 years

A gene previously associated with muscle wasting has recently been revealed as a possible key player in the way Parkinson’s disease spreads itself through the brain. Simon Wing, a professor in McGill University’s Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, is examining the possibility that this gene could be a critical target for therapies to treat the progress of this condition by simply halting this spread.


Cognitive Impairment

Reigning in impulsivity
Melanie Tremblay, Post-Doctoral Fellow
University of Toronto
Basic Research Fellowship
$80,000 over 2 years

New medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease can be blessings for people who no longer respond to levodopa, the most commonly prescribed medication for this condition. But a side-effect of this new class of medications can be impulsivity, leading to excessive gambling or other harmful problems. At the University of British Columbia, Melanie Tremblay investigates the underlying mechanisms in the brain that make people vulnerable to this side-effect, to see if researchers could reverse the problem or develop another drug to treat it.


Complications

Speaking up for Parkinson’s patients
Anita Abeyeskera, PhD student
Western University
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over 2 years

Western University doctoral student Anita Abeyesekera is applying her speech-language pathology and speech science background to open up a new approach to the study of hypophonia, the diminishment of the speaking voice that is often a characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. Her work focuses on understanding the experience people have of hearing their voices as being louder than they actually are, an observation that raises questions about how this disease affects sensory processing in the brain.

Easing the pain of Parkinson’s
Dr. Susan Fox, Professor
Associate Director, Movement Disorders Clinic
Toronto Western Hospital
University of Toronto
Garden Centre Group Co-Op Corp. Pilot Project Grant
Pilot Project Grant
$44,925 over 1 year

With the legalization of marijuana on the horizon, many people are approaching their doctors to see if the oft-touted benefits of cannabinoids could help them. At the University of Toronto, Professor Susan Fox is conducting a small pilot study to see if applying cannabis oil provides relief from the sometimes sharp, burning pain that people with Parkinson’s suffer.


Neuroprotection

Recruiting the brain’s underdogs
Natalina Salmaso
Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Neurobiology
Carleton University
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 1 year