UAB part of nationwide study on Parkinson’s disease

The PPMI study is looking for biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease, which would help identify those at risk and track the progression of the disease.

From side, Dr. Karen Jaunarajs, PhD (Instructor, Neurology) is wearing a lab coat and black lab safety gloves while working in the Center for Neurodegeneration and Experimental Therapeutics laboratory of Dr. David Standaert, 2019.The PPMI study is looking for biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease, which would help identify those at risk and track the progression of the disease.The University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of nearly 50 clinical sites across 12 countries participating in the sizable expansion of the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) study from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The study team at UAB is recruiting people recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, healthy adults, and people age 60 or older who do not have Parkinson’s but are living with certain risk factors. 

Launched in 2010, PPMI has developed the most robust Parkinson’s disease data set and biosample library in the world toward acceleration of better treatments, cures and even prevention of the disease. UAB has been a PPMI site since its launch in 2010. Today PPMI is entering its most ambitious era yet and growing its in-clinic study recruitment from 1,400 to 4,000 volunteers through year-end 2023. Participants contribute biological samples and undergo assessments to characterize Parkinson’s risk, onset and progression. 

“Findings from PPMI have revolutionized the field’s understanding of Parkinson’s biology and design of clinical trials testing potential new treatments, but there is much more to uncover,” said Amy Amara, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of NeurologyHeersink School of Medicine and PPMI principal investigator at UAB. “We are looking forward to working with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, other PPMI sites, and the study’s dedicated volunteers toward a future of disease prevention and better options for those living with Parkinson’s.”  

“When the foundation started in 2000, we set out to change the game on how Parkinson’s research gets done,” said Michael J. Fox. “Two decades later, I’m proud that we have continued to meet this challenge and have become more than just a research organization, but a space where patients bring their wisdom and energy. PPMI’s expansion is about getting this done, curing Parkinson’s, boiling down to a biomarker that we can identify early on and preventing the disease from ever impacting another family.”  

Recruiting Robust Study Cohorts To Predict and Prevent Parkinson’s 

In order to accelerate frameworks for prevention of Parkinson’s disease, PPMI will study cohorts representative of the full continuum of disease: those not diagnosed, the newly diagnosed and those with progressing disease. While following previously enrolled participants — some now more than a decade from diagnosis — PPMI is recruiting new volunteers:  

  • People diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the past two years and who are not yet taking medication
  • People age 60 or older who do nothave Parkinson’s, but are living with certain risk factors, including:   
    • A parent, sister, brother or child with Parkinson’s
    • A genetic mutation linked to Parkinson’s (GBA, LRRK2, SNCA, PRKN, PINK1) 
    • Acting out dreams while asleep (REM sleep behavior disorder)
  • People with no known connection to Parkinson’s who wish to participate as control volunteers

Head shot of Dr. Amy Amara, MD (Assistant Professor, Neurology), 2016.Amy Amara, M.D., Ph.D.PPMI’s expansion also includes online enrollment of up to 100,000 individuals with and without a Parkinson’s diagnosis by year-end 2023. Anyone over age 18 in the United States can participate through the study’s online platform. 

Volunteers interested in enrolling at UAB can contact the study team at 205-975-2894. Learn more about the study at  

“Tapping the power of community to expand our knowledge of Parkinson’s biology and the patient experience is how MJFF works to deliver practical results patients can feel in their everyday lives,” said MJFF CEO and co-founder Deborah W. Brooks, who has participated in PPMI as a control volunteer since 2010. “By amplifying the patient voice and empowering members of the broader community to contribute to a cure, PPMI promises to fundamentally alter how scientists understand Parkinson’s and conduct brain research.”