OHSU study looks for people with reduced sense of smell for Parkinson’s disease research
09/04/13 Portland, Ore.
Michael J. Fox Foundation-sponsored study hopes to discover biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease
Many people with Parkinson’s disease report a loss of sense of smell (called “hyposmia”), often beginning years before the onset of the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.
A new study at Oregon Health & Science University is looking to explore that potentially important issue further. Investigators are looking for people over the age of 60 who do not have Parkinson’s disease to take a brief smell survey as part of a new phase of a landmark study called the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative.
OHSU is one of 24 sites around the world that are part of the $55 million Parkinson’s study sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. During the last three years, the study has been working to identify biological markers of Parkinson’s disease progression. Now, this new phase of the study will seek to better understand potential risk factors of Parkinson’s and to develop tools to detect the disease before the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s – tremors, slowness of movement and rigidity – begin.
Researchers will explore whether testing for a reduced sense of smell might be combined with other measures to identify people who may be at risk for developing the disease. Other potential risk factors being studied include rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (diagnosed through a sleep study) and a mutation in a gene called LRRK2 (found by genetic testing). Validating these risk factors could not only enable earlier detection of the disease, but might also open new avenues in the quest for therapies that could slow or stop disease progression.
“Understanding risk factors for Parkinson’s disease may allow us to develop therapies to prevent the onset of motor symptoms in future generations of Parkinson’s disease patients,” said Penelope Hogarth, M.D., an associate professor of neurology and genetics at OHSU. “We are proud to be a part of this innovative research and are looking to the local community for volunteers over the age of 60 to join us in the effort.”
Portland-area residents who are interested in the research can become one of the 10,000 individuals needed to complete a brief online or paper survey about their sense of smell. People over the age of 60 who do not have Parkinson’s disease are needed to participate. Most survey respondents will be sent a scratch-and-sniff smell test and brief questionnaire in the mail to be completed at home. Some individuals may also be asked if they are willing to undergo more extensive testing at OHSU.
OHSU has been part of the PPMI study for three years and is now enrolling study participants in the new pre-motor phase of the study.
“In the third year of PPMI, it is evident that a large-scale biomarker study is not only possible in Parkinson’s disease, but is already yielding scientific insights that could help transform the field of Parkinson’s research,” said Todd Sherer, Ph.D., chief executive officer of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “None of this progress would be possible without the willing volunteers who donate their time and energy to the pursuit of a cure.”
If you are interested in taking the smell survey, please visit www.michaeljfox.org/takethesmellsurvey, call 1-877-525-PPMI (7764), or contact OHSU study coordinators Alicia Portillo or Art Lenahan at 503-494-1382.
About the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
As the world’s largest private funder of Parkinson’s research, the Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson’s disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson’s patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $325 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson’s research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson’s disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson’s awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world.
About the OHSU Brain Institute
The Oregon Health & Science University Brain Institute is a national neuroscience leader in patient care, research and education. With more than 1,000 brain scientists and specialists, OHSU is home to one of the largest communities of brain and central nervous system experts in the nation. OHSU Brain Institute scientists have won national recognition for breaking new ground in understanding Alzheimer’s disease and for discoveries that have led to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke and other brain disorders and diseases.
Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only public academic health and research university. As one of Oregon's largest employers with more than 14,000 employees, OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support not found anywhere else in the state. OHSU serves patients from every corner of Oregon and is a conduit for learning for more than 4,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to each county in the state.