2014-2016 Projects


Biomarkers


The tiny bubbles that may spread Parkinson's disease
Dr. Francesca Cicchetti
, Laval University
Funded by Quebec Research Fund on Parkinson
Pilot Project Grant: $45,000

Neuro-biologist Francesca Cicchetti is investigating the way damaged alpha-synuclein travels from cell to cell, spreading Parkinson's disease. Her investigations are centred around tiny little bubbles, called microvesicles, that can extract themselves from cells.


Mapping the brain to find an early diagnostic test for Parkinson`s disease
Dr. Daryl Wile
, University of British Columbia
Clinical Movement Disorders Fellowship: $50,000

Dr. Daryl Wile, a neurologist, will be exploring the use of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to develop an early diagnostic test in his year as a clinical movement disorders fellow. He’ll be searching for changes in the brain that occur even before people experience symptoms.


Causes


Mapping the interactions among key proteins and genes in Parkinson`s disease
Prof. Mohan Babu
, University of Regina
Pilot Project Grant: $45,000

Mohan Babu is using genetic screening to map the mitochondrial proteins within cells that are associated with genes connected to Parkinson's disease. By understanding the functions and the physical connections among these proteins, Babu hopes to identify potential targets for new drug therapies.


Turning inflammation from foe to friend
Patrick Flood
, University of Alberta
Pilot Project Grant: $44,101

In Parkinson's disease, immunologist Patrick Flood believes the inflammatory process has gone awry. Inflammation destroys brain cells that produce dopamine, but for reasons unknown it does not switch over to encourage new, dopamine-producing cells to regenerate and grow.


Eliminating ‘bad chaperone’ proteins to find a cure for Parkinson's
Dr. Suneil Kalia
, University of Toronto
Pilot Project Grant: $45,000

Using a type of gene therapy that delivers a virus to dopamine-producing neurons, Dr. Kalia hopes to eliminate the bad chaperone proteins and save the brain cells that are so critically involved in the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.


Stopping chronic inflammation in the brain
Dr. Kwang-Soo Kim
, University of Ottawa
Pedaling for Parkinson's New Investigator Award
Basic Research Fellowship: $100,000 over two years

Dr. Kim, is investigating the relationship between LRRK2, a gene that when mutated causes familial forms of Parkinson's disease, and a second gene called WAVE2 that regulates the brain's immune response.


How one Parkinson's gene can change the shape and function of brain cells
Naila Kuhlmann
, University of British Columbia
Graduate Student Award: $30,000 over two years

Kuhlmann is studying the ability of brain cells to change their shape and function in response to information they receive from other cells from chemical transmitters in the brain.


The pro-survival protein team that can keep cells alive
Dr. Scott Ryan
, University of Guelph
Pedaling for Parkinson's New Investigator Award
New Investigator Award: $90,000 over two year

Dr. Ryan has identified a family of proteins he believes holds the key to keeping dopamine-producing cells in the brain alive, because of the proteins' ability to help the energy-producing components of cells withstand stress.


Stopping the cell-to-cell spread of Parkinson's disease
Omid Tavassoly
, Montreal Neurological Institute
Basic Research Fellowship: $80,000 over two year

Biochemist Omid Tavassoly is investigating cell-to-cell transmission of damaged forms of the protein alpha-synuclein. Spreading the damaged protein ultimately spreads Parkinson's, so Tavassoly's work could eventually lead to a drug therapy to slow or stop the disease.


Understanding PINK1, the healthy brain cell monitor
Dr. Jean-Francois Trempe
, McGill University
Pedaling for Parkinson's New Investigator Award
New Investigator Award: $90,000 over two years

Dr. Trempe is studying the structure and shape of PINK1, a protein that plays a critical role in familial Parkinson's disease. Learning the shape of this protein could help develop a drug to repair the protein when it is damaged, to help it do its job of keeping brain cells healthy.


Knocking out a protein to protect against Parkinson's disease
Dr. Mattia Volta
, University of British Columbia
Basic Research Fellowship: $100,000 over two years

Dr. Volta studies the interaction between two genes and the proteins they express, to see if removing LRRK2, one of those proteins, can stop the spread of the other protein and halt the clumping together of that protein, which causes critical brain cells to die.


Cognitive Impairment


Investigating the protein clumps that could interfere with brain function
Leigh Christopher
, University of Toronto
Graduate Student Award: $30,000 over two years

Leigh Christopher uses brain imaging to investigate clumps of proteins in brain cells. She hopes to find out why these protein clumps make some people with Parkinson's more vulnerable to cognitive impairment and dementia than others.


Analyzing changes in the brain to predict who could develop dementia
Alexandru Hanganu
, University of Calgary
Funded in partnership by Quebec Parkinson Network, Quebec Research Fund on Parkinson's and Parkinson Society Canada
Basic Research Fellowship: $80,000 over two years

Alexandru Hanganu is analyzing the structural changes in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease who have mild cognitive impairment. Using imaging technology and mathematical modelling, he hopes to feed the data into software that may become a diagnostic tool to predict cognitive problems and, potentially, dementia.


How sudden drops in blood pressure relate to dementia in Parkinson's disease
Dr. Ronald Postuma
, McGill University
Funded by Quebec Research Fund on Parkinson
Pilot Project Grant: $40,620

Dr. Ronald Postuma is investigating the relationship between people with Parkinson's disease who also experience sudden drops in blood pressure, and those who later develop or already have mild cognitive impairment or dementia.


Halting cognitive decline without drugs
Jessica Trung
, University of Montreal
Funded by Quebec Parkinson Network
Graduate Student Award: $30,000 over two years

Jessica Trung is studying the use of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to activate cells and circuits in the brain of people with Parkinson's disease. She hopes this non-invasive procedure, will be able to restore some functioning for people who have mild cognitive impairment.


Complications


Balance and the brain
Dr. Mark Carpenter, University of British Columbia
Porridge for Parkinson's (Toronto) Pilot Project Grant: $45,000

Dr. Carpenter is using imaging technology to scan the brains of people with Parkinson's disease as they perform a balancing task, to discover what structures of the brain control balance and might be receptive to new treatments to restore balance and reduce falls.


Grappling with gambling: The receptor that could hold the key
Paul Cocker
, University of British Columbia
Graduate Student Award: $30,000 over two years

Paul Cocker is seeking a compound to block the dopamine D4 receptors in brain cells hoping to open a new treatment avenue to prevent the compulsive behaviours experienced by some people who take dopamine-replacement drugs to control the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.


A new research protocol to test drugs reducing involuntary movements
Dr. Camila Henriques de Aquino
, University of Toronto
Toronto Western Hospital (University of Toronto)
Pedaling for Parkinson's Clinical Movement Disorders Fellowship: $50,000

Dr. Camila Henriques de Aquino is learning to perform deep brain stimulation and is also helping to develop a new protocol for measuring the use of anti-dyskinesia medication using intravenous levodopa.


The benefits of exercise and learning new skills
Dr. Julien Doyon
, University of Montreal
Funded by Quebec Research Fund on Parkinson
Pilot Project Grant: $44,725

Neuroscientist Dr. Doyon is investigating whether having people listening to their favourite music while exercising will not only reduce their symptoms of Parkinson's disease in a lasting way, it will also facilitate their ability to learn new types of movements.


Dopamine and dyskinesia: investigating new areas of the brain
Dr. Eric Dumont
, Queen's University
Pilot Project Grant: $45,000

Dr. Eric Dumont is studying an area of the brain called the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, or BNST. Dumont believes the BNST gets too much dopamine from dopamine-replacement drugs and if the dopamine levels in this area of the brain are reduced, it may mean fewer involuntary movements.


Halting hallucinations
Dr. Philippe Huot
, University of Montreal
New Investigator Award: $89,984 over two years

Dr. Philippe Huot is investigating the levels of a particular protein linked to visual hallucinations in the brains of people with Parkinson's. He will test new medications that might enhance the function of this protein to hopefully prevent and reduce the hallucinations.


Measuring the brain's white matter and how it affects thinking in Parkinson’s disease
Prof. Alex MacKay
, University of British Columbia
Funded by Quebec Research Fund on Parkinson and Parkinson Society British Columbia
Pilot Project Grant: $45,000

Physicist Alex MacKay is using Magnetic Resonance Imaging in a new way to measure the white matter within brains and assess its connection to the problems with thinking and reasoning that many people with Parkinson's disease experience.


Quality of Life


Walking to the beat of a different drummer
Dr. Jessica Grahn
, University of Western Ontario
Pilot Project Grant: $44,987

Walking to a strong musical beat can often help people overcome freezing in place. Dr. Grahn is investigating whether people's ability to perceive the beat in music improves the effectiveness of this therapy and to recommend ways to use music to lengthen strides and increase walking speed.


Music, movement and their connection in the brain
Dr. Jessica Grahn
, University of Western Ontario
Psychosocial Research Grant: $100,000 over two years

Dr. Grahn uses imaging technology to scan the brains of people with Parkinson's as they listen to music and simulate walking, to determine what pathways in the brain connect movement and sound, to help people speed up walking and prevent freezing in place and falling.


Language comprehension and predicting what comes next
Dr. Ken McRae
, University of Western Ontario
Funded by Quebec Research Fund on Parkinson and Parkinson Society British Columbia
Pilot Project Grant: $40,915

Dr. McRae is investigating why people with Parkinson's disease have trouble with conversation. If they determine that Parkinson's damages the ability to predict the next word, a new speech/language technique could help therapists assist people with Parkinson's.


Prescribing exercise as a treatment for Parkinson's disease
Matthew Sacheli
, University of British Columbia
Funded by Garden Centre Co-op
Graduate Student Award: $30,000 over two years

Matthew Sacheli is investigating whether exercise triggers the release of dopamine in the brain by using imaging technology to determine the structures in the brain that exercise affects. His goal is more precise prescriptions for exercise for people living with Parkinson's disease.


End-of-life care planning: removing the onus from the patient
Kim Jameson
, University of British Columbia
PSC-CIHR Post-doctoral Award: $105,000 over three years

Kim Jameson is interviewing people with Parkinson's about end-of-life care planning. She will develop a guide for health care professionals about engaging patients and caregivers about their values, wishes and beliefs surrounding medical interventions, pain management, and artificial nutrition and hydration, as well as other end-of-life care issues.


Neuroprotection


Exercise and omegas: an inexpensive, accessible way to boost dopamine in the brain
Dr. Frédéric Calon
, Laval University
Funded by Quebec Research Fund on Parkinson
Pilot Project Grant: $45,000

For people with Parkinson's disease, the combination of consuming omega-3 fatty acids and getting regular exercise could actually restore levels of dopamine in the brain. That's the theory Dr. Frédéric Calon is testing at Laval University.


The female effect: estrogen as a protective factor against Parkinson’s disease
Nadhir Litim
, Le Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec
Funded by Quebec Parkinson Network
Graduate Student Award: $30,000 over two years

Nadhir Litim is investigating the beneficial effects of using drug therapy to deliver estrogen directly to areas of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease. He’s hoping to try to protect against the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells and protect healthy cells from damage.