University of Alabama begins Parkinson's biomarker study

Researchers at the University of Alabama are investigating whether a reduced sense of smell, or hyposmia, could be used as a biomarker to help detect Parkinson's disease.

Previous research has suggested there might be a link between loss of smell and Parkinson's since the human sense of smell is linked to numerous functions in the brain.

The UAB research is sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and is a new arm of the long-running Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), which is trying to recruit as many as 20,000 people worldwide to participate in a brief online survey about the sense of smell. UAB joined the PPMI study when it was launched in 2010 and is one of 23 participating sites worldwide. The study has grown from $40 million in funding when it was first launched to $55 million currently with the goal of identifying one or more biomarkers of Parkinson's and better understand potential risk factors of the disease.

"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, CEO of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

The study at the UAB site is also enrolling individuals who have rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD), which is caused by a mutation in the LRRK2 gene--the single greatest known genetic factor associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease.

- read the UAB news item

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