NIH Name OHSU to Research Consortium Investigating Compounds to Slow Parkinson's Disease Progression

10/14/02    Portland, Ore.

Grant announcement follows OHSU participation in clinical trial showing promise for Parkinson's patients

Oregon Health & Science University has been named to a consortium of institutions studying compounds that may slow progression of the impacts of Parkinson's disease. The $288,000, five-year grant will fund large, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of suspected neuroprotective agents. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a component of the National Institutes of Health, will fund the center.

One example of a compound that holds promise for Parkinson's patients is coenzyme Q10, a naturally occurring compound currently sold as a dietary supplement. In a recent national clinical trial partially conducted at OHSU, Q10 was shown to slow the progressive deterioration of function that occurs with the disease by 44 percent. However, the number of people involved in this study was small. Now, a larger clinical trial must be done with more participants so that definitive results can be reached.

"One of the major goals of the neuroprotective research will be to conduct these larger clinical trials," said Julie Carter, A.N.P., associate director of the OHSU Parkinson Center of Oregon and principal investigator of the OHSU's Center for Neuroprotection in Parkinson's Disease. "This information can then be used to advise patients in a responsible and informed way."

Each neuroprotective research center will recruit, evaluate and treat participants diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The centers will also be involved in design of clinical trials testing various compounds. Information gathered during these trials will be shared with collaborating institutions and the NINDS.

Parkinson's disease affects nearly one million Americans, including approximately 1 percent of the population older than 65. Parkinson's and related neurological disorders are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. The four primary symptoms of Parkinson's are tremor or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement; and impaired balance and coordination. Patients may also have difficulty walking, talking or completing other simple tasks. The disease is both chronic and progressive.

"Many scientists believe research into neuroprotective agents holds great promise for those who suffer from Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders," said Carter. "In the case of Parkinson's disease, delaying the physical disability would be a major step forward in improving the quality of life for these people."

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