Overview

The Profile - Research cycle funds projects across a range of streams, all of which seek to better understand the pathology, develop new treatments and improve the lives of Canadians with Parkinson’s.

More specifically, these projects will have a potential impact on symptoms management, quality of life and development of new biomarkers. For instance, the project of Dr. Matthew Krause aims to investigate transcranial electrical stimulation as an alternative and less invasive method to deep brain stimulation to help to manage motor symptoms in people with PD whose symptoms cannot be managed by medication. Dr. Kaylena Ehgoetz Martens studies freezing of gait, which compromises the quality of life and independence of people with PD, to identify situations that could lead to freezing episodes and develop therapies to prevent them. Finally, Dr. Silke Appel-Cresswell whose research on the gut could potentially develop new biomarkers for disease detection and identify new treatment targets.

Projects

Parkinson Canada and its partners are proud to support 97 new grants, fellowships, and student awards for the Profile - Research research cycle, including:

  • Pilot Project Grants
  • New Investigator Awards
  • Basic Research Fellowships
  • Clinical Movement Disorders Fellowship
  • Graduate Student Awards

Finding the proteins to stop Parkinson’s disease


Dr. Yogitha Thattikota
Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University
Funded in partnership with Rudy's Run in honour of Rudy Erfle
Basic Research Fellowship
$100,000 over 2 years
Causes

At the Montreal Neurological Institute, Yogitha Thattikota, a post-doctoral fellow, is using cutting-edge genetic screening tools to study the proteins that regulate alpha-synuclein, another protein that’s a key player in Parkinson’s disease. Clumps of alpha-synuclein accumulate in the brain cells that produce dopamine, killing those cells and leading to Parkinson’s. If she can identify other proteins that cause the over-production of alpha-synuclein, Thattikota’s research could open a new avenue for a drug target to stop this process.

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Designing new drugs for Parkinson’s disease


Dr. Simon Veyron
Post-Doctoral Fellow, McGill University
Funded in partnership with Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Santé
Basic Research Fellowship
$50,000 over 2 years
Treatment of Parkinson's

At McGill University, Simon Veyron, a post-doctoral fellow, is searching for the basis of a new drug to treat Parkinson’s disease. Veyron, a biochemist, is combining fragments of molecules to create a substance that will bind to Parkin, a protein implicated in the process that causes inherited forms of Parkinson’s. If the compound Veyron creates can activate Parkinson and restore the protein’s function, the new substance could eventually form a drug that restores the health of the brain cells that die during Parkinson’s disease.

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Giving Voice to People with Parkinson’s disease


Marcelo da Silva Vieira
PhD Student, McGill University
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Cognitive impairment

At McGill University, Marcelo da Silva Vieira, a PhD student, studies the ability of people with Parkinson’s disease to interpret unclear sounds and to adjust the pitch and intensity of their voice. He’s using neuroimaging to correlate damage in the brain to these speech difficulties. His findings may result in better speech and language therapy.

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Non-invasive ways to stimulate the brain


Dr. Matthew Krause
Research Associate, McGill University
Funded by Parkinson Society British Columbia
Pilot Project Grant
$50,000 over 1 year
Treatment of Parkinson's

Deep brain stimulation is a helpful but invasive treatment for Parkinson’s disease that requires implanting electrodes deep inside the brain. At McGill University, Matthew Krause, a research associate, studies transcranial electrical stimulation. This technology delivers electrical pulses to the brain non-invasively. If the method Krause is investigating to deliver transcranial electrical stimulation works, many more people with Parkinson’s disease could benefit from this treatment.

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From Sleep Disorders to Parkinson’s disease


Lynne Krohn
PhD Student, Montreal Neurological Institute (McGill University)
Funded in partnership with Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Santé
Graduate Student Award
$10,000 over 2 years
Biomarkers

Up to 80 percent of people with REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder (RBD) develop either Parkinson’s disease or Lewy body dementia. At McGill University, PhD student Lynne Krohn has discovered genes that pose a greater risk for RBD. By screening genes and creating a risk score, she hopes to identify people at risk of RBD whose disorder might convert to the neurodegenerative diseases. Identifying people earlier could make them candidates for clinical trials when new treatments are being developed.

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Building mini-brains to understand the LRRK2 protein


Emma MacDougall
PhD Student, Montreal Neurological Institute (McGill University)
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Causes

At the Montreal Neurological Institute, PhD student Emma MacDougall is studying LRRK2, a protein produced by the LRRK2 gene that, when mutated, causes familial forms of Parkinson’s disease. MacDougall will alter stem cells from people with Parkinson’s disease so they take on the characteristics of microglial brain cells. By building a three-dimensional model including these cells – a mini-brain – and comparing them to 3D models of cells from healthy people, she’ll learn more about LRRK2’s function.

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DNA changes and Parkinson’s disease


Dr. Paulina Gonzalez Latapi
Clinical Fellow, University Health Network
Clinical Movement Disorder Fellowship
$50,000 over 1 year
Clinical fellowship

Understanding the way Parkinson’s disease works at the level of DNA and genes could provide researchers with important information about possible treatments. During a clinical fellowship at the Movement Disorders Clinic at Toronto’s University Health Network, Dr. Paulina Gonzalez-Latapi is also exploring DNA methylation, a process that changes the activity of certain genes, in people with inherited forms of Parkinson’s disease. Gonzalez-Latapi will use a statistical model to chart the relationship between these DNA changes and people’s cognitive and motor responses over time.

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Finding a drug to reduce involuntary movements


Imane Frouni
University of Montreal
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Complications

Although levodopa, the major treatment for Parkinson’s disease, works well in people for years, eventually those taking it experience involuntary movements and other side effects. At the Université de Montréal, PhD student Imane Frouni investigates whether blocking a protein in the brain’s glycinergic system can stop these debilitating movements and reduce psychosis, another side-effect of long-term levodopa use. If Frouni proves this drug is successful, adding it to L-dopa could improve people’s quality of life.

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Securing smell as a distinguishing symptom


Johannes Frasnelli
Professor, Université de Québec á Trois-Rivières
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 1 year
Biomarkers

People who lose their sense of smell – but not their ability to perceive spiciness or freshness - are at high risk of Parkinson’s disease. At the Université de Québec á Trois-Rivières, Professor Johannes Frasnelli uses Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to study brain activity, and the connectivity and structure of particular regions of the brain. By determining how Parkinson’s affects the way the brain processes smell, he hopes to pave the way for early screening tools for Parkinson’s disease.

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The Tale of Two Proteins


Raphaella W.L. So
PhD Student, University of Toronto
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Causes

At the University of Toronto, PhD student Raphaella So investigates the role the cellular prion protein plays in Parkinson’s disease. She’s interested in how this protein interacts with alpha-synuclein, another key protein implicated in the death of the dopamine-producing brain cells whose loss results in Parkinson’s.

Understanding the role of the cellular prion protein could eventually identify another target for a drug to stop or slow the disease’s progression.

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