Western New York Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) has announced a federal grant to the University at Buffalo for the development of a method to accurately diagnose Parkinson's disease before clinical symptoms are present.
The more than $2.2 million award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be allocated over a five-year period.
Parkinson’s is a motor system disorder resulting from the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Higgins said it affects up to 1 million people in the United States.
"That’s 1 million Americans with a difficult, progressive condition without a cure who must wait until their clinical symptoms are serious enough to be diagnosed," Higgin said.
Jian Feng, principal investigator and professor of physiology and biophysics at UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said the grant will allow researchers to work toward a goal of developing a method for the objective diagnosis, and might allow doctors to predict years in advance who might develop the disease.
“When we generated induced pluripotent stem cells from a group of Parkinson’s disease patients and a group of normal subjects, we found that there were many significant differences in the expression levels of genes controlling the production, utilization and degradation of dopamine,” said Feng. “Thus, we want to investigate this further with the goal of developing a method for the objective diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. It might also allow us to predict years in advance, who may develop Parkinson’s.”