Relationship between COVID-19 and Parkinson’s disease in a mouse model

Dr. Thérèse Di Paolo
Université Laval
Pilot Project Grants
$75,000 over 1 year

Apart from aging, viral infections are considered among important risk factors for Parkinson’s disease. Incidence of Parkinsonism increased 2 to 3-fold after the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. Recent reviews of the prevalence of COVID-19 infection in patients with Parkinson’s showed a pooled prevalence of COVID-19 infection in Parkinson’s disease cases of 5%, with hospitalization and mortality rates of 49% and 12% respectively. This has a significant public health implication. The prevalence of Parkinson’s disease is 1.5–2-fold higher in men, with age at onset of this disease occurring about 2 years later in women compared to men. Sex differences in COVID-19 infection were reported. Distribution of COVID-19 cases above age 50 in Canada as of January 28, 2022 revealed more male than female cases hospitalized in intensive care unit and deceased. Our objective is to study a plausible link between SARS-CoV-2 infection and susceptibility to Parkinson’s disease in mice by investigating the basal ganglia of male and female mice in a two-hit mouse model of SARS-CoV-2 infection and MPTP.

How Parkinson Canada is helping

This funding is critical to set up the model to then investigate drug treatments to prevent, stop, or delay the brain effects of Parkinson’s with COVID-19 infection. This pilot project is necessary to generate the animal model to support the feasibility of this research for future CIHR grant funding. 

Where research goals do you hope to achieve?

My research group expects to personalize neuroprotection treatments for Parkinson’s considering the sex and hormonal status of the person. We focus on drugs already used to treat endocrine conditions with greater and more rapid translational value for use in Parkinson’s disease patients.