Finding a treatment for Parkinson’s takes time:
Finding a cure may take longer
What are we doing?
This month I will try to tell you where we are, though I warn you that sometimes we don’t really know exactly where we are. As Einstein famously said, “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”
We have done a lot of smell tests. The test is called the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test or UPSIT. We have tested about 35 subjects with Parkinson’s (PD) and 60 subjects without Parkinson’s that we call “normal,” for want of a better term. The PDs were all in stage 1-2 Hoehn & Yahr. All 95 subjects have been scanned in the MRI. (Not everyone enjoyed the racket in the scanner – sorry about that!)
At present, that might be all we will be doing with people with Parkinson’s and we will now be turning our attention to the so-called “at-risk” group of 1,200. These are people who may be at risk for PD (by age or by age and genetics). To date we have tested 146 – a number that grows daily and jumps every time Dr. Kim Good is interviewed on CBC Information Morning, Global News or in the Chronicle Herald! Our immediate goal is to test 1,200 people using the UPSIT and we will then perform MRI scans on as many of these as we can afford to scan within our funding limits. The objective will be to see whether we can use MRI to find subjects who are in the early pre-motor stages of Parkinson’s disease. In other words, we want to see if we can detect Parkinson’s disease before the neurologists.
Some neurologists ask: “Why do you want to do this study? It is of no great importance because it won’t change the treatment – there are no drugs that halt progression of PD.”
To which a very insightful neurologist responds: “We will never develop a really effective treatment for PD if we don’t find ways to detect early PD.”
How are we doing?
Aside from recruiting, smell-testing and MRI scanning, we keep on top of the literature to see how people who try to replicate our work are doing. Our first paper appeared in the Journal of Neurology in 2011. As a measure of its success, it has been cited 31 times and has been included in a several reviews. These reviews have found that, in general, other groups have replicated our findings.
New people and projects
Namrata Joshi, PhD, has been working with us for a little over nine months. Dr. Joshi has assumed responsibility for coordinating the analysis of the MRI data.
Dr. Tyler Rolheiser, who did so much to get the project off the ground, is still with us thanks to the internet and skype. He is taking a break from his academic career to be at home with two small children, but he still helps with the project from his home in Calgary.
Mackenzie Armstrong worked with us for several years before leaving to study medicine at Dalhousie. He is now doing an elective with us as part of his MD program.
Ceire Storey, who replaced Mackenzie last year, is now our research coordinator.
Feel free to contact me any time if you have questions. My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next month’s blog:
Harry visits Saskatoon and Ivar Mendez in his new location.