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Imperial College London Launches New Arm of Parkinson's Study; Eyes Two Mutations

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Imperial College London has launched a new branch of the Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative, a large-scale biomarker research project sponsored by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research that will focus on two mutations linked to the disease, the foundation said today.

The PPMI will study individuals with known LRRK or SNCA genetic mutations, both of which have been linked to Parkinson's disease, and it is currently seeking volunteers of Ashkenazi Jewish background to participate in the project.

As GenomeWeb Daily News reported earlier this year, the PPMI project will focus on these mutations because several pharmaceutical companies have shown an interest in the LRRK2 protein kinase and the alpha-synuclein protein, encoded by the LRRK2 and SNCA genes, as possible drug targets.

"Studying individuals with genetic mutations associated with Parkinson's can accelerate our research toward a PD biomarker and more effective treatments," Nicola Pavese, co-principal investigator of the PPMI study at ICL, said in a statement. "Although known genetic mutations currently account for only five to 10 percent of all Parkinson's cases, this population can provide invaluable information about the intricacies of the disease for all patients."

The PPMI project will enroll about 250 people with the LRRK2 mutation who have Parkinson's and 250 people with the mutation who do not have the disease. Because the SNCA mutation is rarer, the project will recruit 50 people with the mutation who have the disease and 50 who have the mutation but do not have Parkinson's. The participants will be followed for five years.

PPMI, which launched in 2010, now includes the participation of 32 clinical sites.