Projects

Investigation of epigenetic clock in Parkinson’s Disease and rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorders


Dr. Paulina Gonzalez Latapi
University Health Network
$50,000 over 1 year
Clinical fellowship

Details coming soon

Understanding balance and walking in Parkinson’s disease


Stephanie Tran
PhD Student, University Health Network
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Treatment of Parkinson's

Poor balance and difficulty walking are among the toughest symptoms to reduce in people with Parkinson’s disease. At the University Health Network, PhD student Stephanie Tran studies the three major sensory systems involved in balance: sight, proprioception, and the vestibular system. She wants to learn how these systems interact and which are most affected by Parkinson’s. She hopes to use her new knowledge to create cues for people to improve balance.

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Modelling Parkinson’s disease


Cynthia Kwan
PhD Student, Montreal Neurological Institute
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Causes

Despite decades of research, there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease and no therapies that protect against it. At the Montreal Neurological Institute, PhD student Cynthia Kwan is developing an animal model to reproduce the progression of the disease and its symptoms. She’s using the model to follow the impact of a synthetic form of the protein alpha-synuclein on the brain, to see how it spreads and accumulates. She hopes the knowledge she gains will help researchers find a drug to stop the progression of Parkinson’s.

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Development of a clinical care pathway for apathy in understanding why personalities change for people with Parkinson’s


Bria Mele
PhD Student, University of Calgary
Funded by The Lanka Charitable Foundation
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Complications

About 40 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease suffer from apathy, which means they lack passion and motivation and may not exhibit or feel strong emotions. Often, apathy is misdiagnosed and treated as depression, although the medications prescribed for depression may make their symptoms worse. At the University of Calgary, PhD student Bria Mele is developing a clinical tool so clinicians, caregivers and people with Parkinson’s can recognize and diagnose apathy and consider treatment options.

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Improving memory, reasoning and judgment


Iman Beheshti
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Manitoba
Basic Research Fellowship
$100,000 over 2 years
Biomarkers

As many as half of people with Parkinson’s disease eventually experience some degree of cognitive decline. At the University of Manitoba, Iman Beheshti, a postdoctoral fellow, is applying Transcranial Direct Caudate Stimulation (tDCS) to the part of the brain called the caudate nucleus. Beheshti hopes applying an electrical current to stimulate the caudate regularly during this two-year project will improve the cognitive abilities of people with Parkinson’s disease.

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Using non-invasive brain stimulation to unfreeze gait


Alexandra Potvin-Desrochers
PhD Student, McGill University
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Motor Control

Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience freezing of gait every day. Unfortunately, medication that reduces motor symptoms of this disease doesn’t usually help with freezing. At McGill University, PhD student Alexandra Potvin-Desrochers is investigating the connectivity between the regions of the brain involved in freezing. Her aim is to determine whether combining rTMS—repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation—with balance and gait training will reduce freezing and improve the daily lives of people with Parkinson’s disease.

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3D software to better stimulate the brain


Greydon Gilmore
PhD Student, Western University
Funded by The Lanka Charitable Foundation
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Treatment of Parkinson's

Deep brain stimulation acts as a “pacemaker for the brain” to reduce motor symptoms for people with Parkinson’s disease. At Western University, Greydon Gilmore, a PhD student, is creating software to map the brain to ensure surgeons place electrodes in exactly the right spot to help stimulate neurons. The 3D software will also enable neurologists to check after surgery to see if the electrodes are where they’re supposed to be and will enable better programming of the device to deliver maximum benefits to patients.

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Pinpointing the connection between Parkinson’s disease and REM sleep behaviour disorder


Jessie De Roy
PhD Candidate, Université du Québec à Montréal
Funded in partnership with Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé
Graduate Student Award
$10,000 over 2 years
Biomarkers

More than a third of people with Parkinson’s disease also have REM sleep behaviour disorder, a potentially dangerous condition in which they act out their dreams. At the Université du Québec à Montréal, PhD student Jessie De Roy uses brain imaging and other tests to determine which areas of the brain this disorder affects. She hopes pinpointing any brain abnormalities associated with this condition, correlated with severe symptoms of Parkinson’s, will eventually lead to better treatments.

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Putting assessment in the hands of patients


Dr. Babak Taati
Scientist, University of Toronto
Pilot Project Grant
$50,000 over 1 year
Biomarkers

Babak Taati and Yana Yunusova of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute are developing a software program that could run on hand-held electronic devices and regularly record information about a patient’s condition. The tool would significantly enhance the ability of clinicians and patients to track the course the disease and direct treatment accordingly.

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Mood, meditation, and the autonomic nervous system


Dr. Chenjie Xia
Assistant Professor, McGill University
New Investigator Award
$90,000 over 2 years
Biomarkers

At McGill University, Dr. Chenjie Xia, a neurologist and assistant professor, is studying the association between depression, anxiety and other mood disturbances in people with Parkinson’s disease, and their autonomic nervous systems. She hopes to demonstrate that association and then try to use mindfulness and other forms of meditation previously shown to regulate the autonomic nervous system to see if meditation will also improve mood.

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How toxic forms of alpha-synuclein get into these dopamine-producing brain cells


Armin Bayati
McGill University
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Causes

Stopping the spread of toxic proteins before they kill the brain cells that control movement would revolutionize the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. At McGill University, PhD student Armin Bayati is investigating how a protein called alpha-synuclein enters neurons, and then how the toxic proteins spread to other cells. Clumps of alpha-synuclein kill the brain cells that produce dopamine, the signaling chemical that controls movement. Bayati’s research could provide a new target for Parkinson’s therapy.

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New cellular model for Parkinson’s


Dr. Janelle Drouin-Ouellet
Professor, University of Montreal
New Investigator Award
$90,000 over 2 years
Causes

At the University of Montreal, Professor Janelle Drouin-Ouellet, a neurobiologist, is using a new technique that converts skin cells into brain cells to study the relationship between aging and Parkinson’s disease. By using these cells to create a new model of Parkinson’s, she can investigate if or how mitochondria, the organelles within cells that make them breathe, are malfunctioning and causing brain cells to die. She hopes to find multiple causes for this malfunction, eventually leading to personalized treatment for people with Parkinson’s.

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Screenings genes to find the cause of Parkinson’s


Dr. Thomas Goiran
Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University
Basic Research Fellowship
$100,000 over 2 years
Causes

Researchers believe clumps of a misshapen protein called alpha-synuclein that accumulate in dopamine-producing brain cells cause their death and produce Parkinson’s disease. Without enough of the signalling chemical, the brain cells can’t communicate with each other and carry out their functions. At McGill University, postdoctoral researcher Thomas Goiran is using the state-of-the-art gene editing tool CRISPR to identify the genes that predispose people to Parkinson’s and contribute to the buildup of alpha-synuclein and subsequent cell death.

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Understanding a critical protein at the atomic level


Dr. Vladimir Ladizhansky
Professor, University of Guelph
Pilot Project Grant
$50,000 over 1 year
Causes

At the University of Guelph, Professor Vladimir Ladizhansky, a biophysicist, is using nuclear magnetic resonance to examine the way a protein called alpha-synuclein interacts with cell membranes. Alpha-synuclein is a key culprit in the death of brain cells that produce dopamine, the chemical that communicates with the body’s motor control system. By understanding this cellular process at the atomic level, Ladizhansky hopes to find clues to how better control the process.

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Regulating the regulators


Dr. Pascale Legault
Université de Montréal
Funded by Parkinson Québec
Pilot Project Grant
$50,000 over 1 year
Causes

Pascale Legault, who directs the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at Université de Montréal, is examining proteins that control the behaviour of complex biological molecules called microRNAs. These molecules regulate proteins to maintain the health of neurons in the nervous system, a process that breaks down when that regulation fails and leads to Parkinson’s disease. By learning more about how microRNAs are themselves regulated, she hopes to prevent this process from getting started.

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Studying cranky immune cells


Dr. Ramy Malty
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Regina
Funded in partnership with University of Regina
Basic Research Fellowship
$100,000 over 2 years
Causes

At the University of Regina, Postdoctoral Fellow Remy Malty investigates the molecular pathways that activate microglial immune cells in the brain. Normally intended to fight infection or injury, with age microglial cells can become overly sensitive to injury or stress and attack and kill the brain cells that produce dopamine. Loss of dopamine leads to developing Parkinson’s disease. By identifying the molecules that activate microglial cells unnecessarily, Malty hopes to find how to block this process without reducing the immune system’s beneficial effects in the rest of the body.

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Tapping into a new source of information about Parkinson’s disease


Dr. Christel Renoux
McGill University
Funded by Parkinson Québec
Pilot Project Grant
$50,000 over 1 year
Treatment of Parkinson's

Dr. Christel Renoux, a neurologist and epidemiologist with McGill University and the Jewish General Hospital’s Lady Davis Institute, will consult a large electronic archive of patient data to determine the effectiveness of a particular class of drugs against the development of Parkinson’s disease. These drugs, called ß2 agonists, have already been demonstrated to have some clinical value, but this research should reveal more precisely how they help patients in real life.

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Linking genetics and inflammation in Parkinson’s disease


Dr. Michael Schlossmacher
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Funded by Parkinson Society British Columbia
Pilot Project Grant
$50,000 over 1 year
Causes

The Ottawa laboratory of Dr. Michael Schlossmacher has identified what may be a critical role for an inflammation-driven chemical agent called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in a particular Parkinson’s disease-related gene mutation. Individuals with this gene who have elevated inflammation could experience increased ROS levels in their nervous system and brain, leading to the degeneration that characterizes this condition. Schlossmacher and his team are looking for the mechanism behind the elevated ROS as a potential target for treating the disease.

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Sleep, socioeconomic status, and Parkinson’s disease


Faustin Armel Etindele Sosso
PhD Candidate, Université du Québec à Montréal
Funded in partnership with Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé
Graduate Student Award
$5,000 over 2 years
Causes

Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience insomnia and/or daytime sleepiness. At the Université du Québec à Montréal, PhD student Faustin Armel Etindele Sosso is studying the relationship between someone’s socioeconomic status and these sleep disturbances, to see if he can shed light on ways to tailor treatment programs for these symptoms to the specific needs of people with Parkinson’s in a variety of socioeconomic situations.

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The brain’s lymphatic system and therapies to prevent Parkinson’s disease


Dr. Naomi Visanji
Scientific Associate, Edmond J. Safra Program in Parkinson Disease,
Toronto Western Hospital
Funded by Pedaling for Parkinson’s in honor of Don MacLean
Pilot Project Grant
$49,488.76 over 1 year
Causes

Researchers have recently discovered that the brain has its own lymphatic system for draining toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. At Toronto Western Hospital, Scientific Associate Naomi Visanji is exploring whether this system can clear the protein alpha-synuclein, which is linked to cell death in Parkinson’s disease. If her work finds the brain’s lymphatic system can clear alpha-synuclein, her research will provide a new target for therapies to prevent the process that underlies Parkinson’s disease.

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A new angle on basic Parkinson’s research


Benoît Delignat-Lavaud
PhD Candidate, Université de Montréal
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Clinical Fellowship

Researchers studying Parkinson’s disease have largely focused on the release of dopamine, a chemical that controls movement, from the part of the brain cells called axon terminals. At the Université de Montréal, PhD student Benoît Delignat-Lavaud investigates the release of dopamine from a different part of cells: the dendrites and the soma, or cell body. He hopes his research will lead to a way to have other parts of brain cells compensate for dopamine loss from the terminals. That could ultimately lead to a new treatment target for Parkinson’s.

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Offering the best possible care


Dr. Emily Swinkin
Clinical Fellow in Movement Disorders, University Health Network
Funded by Pedaling for Parkinson’s in honor of Hartley Richardson
Clinical Fellow in Movement Disorders
$50,000 over 1 year
Clinical Fellowship

As a clinical fellow at the Toronto Western Hospital Movement Disorders Clinic, Dr. Emily Swinkin will learn more about how to use techniques like deep brain stimulation and an intestinal gel called Duodopa to better treat people with complicated cases or those in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease. She looks forward to building strong relationships with her patients and giving the time to understand the way Parkinson’s affects all aspects of their lives.

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Predicting cognitive impairment in people with Parkinson’s disease


Dr. Alexandru Hanganu
Assistant Professor, University of Montreal
New Investigator Award
$88,432 over 2 years
Cognitive Impairment

Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation, Dr. Alexandru Hanganu is charting changes that occur in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease who also have neuropsychiatric symptoms (such as depression, anxiety, apathy, impulsive behaviour or sleep disorders). Hanganu, an assistant professor at the University of Montreal, plans to create an algorithm to predict people at risk of dementia, opening the way for earlier treatment or ways to prevent further decline in people with Parkinson’s disease who also have mild cognitive impairment.

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Using transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to improve cognitive abilities.


Dr. Ji Hyun Ko
Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba
Funded by Pedaling for Parkinson’s (Prince Edward County)
New Investigator Award
$90,000 over 2 years
Cognitive Impairment

Deep inside the brain, a structure called the caudate nucleus is responsible for people’s ability to understand, evaluate and take action to achieve goals. These cognitive abilities are impaired in some people with Parkinson’s disease. At the University of Manitoba, Assistant Professor Ji Hyun Ko is investigating the use of a technique called transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to send electrical charges through regions of the brain connected to the caudate, to try to improve these cognitive abilities.

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Mapping sleep disturbance in the brain


David Rémillard-Pelchat
PhD Candidate, Université du Québec à Montréal
Funded in partnership with Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé
Graduate Student Award
$10,000 over 2 years
Cognitive Impairment

At the Université du Québec à Montréal, PhD student David Rémillard-Pelchat is investigating the relationship between disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain during sleep and structures in the brain that may be damaged. He hopes to find a way to predict which people with Parkinson’s disease will eventually develop dementia – a marker that could be important to give people access to new therapies developed to prevent cognitive decline.

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Modelling to predict Parkinson’s


Dr. Juan Li
PhD, Methodologist/Postdoctoral Fellow, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Funded by Parkinson Society of British Columbia
Basic Research Fellowship
$100,000 over 2 years
Bio Statistics

Predicting who might develop Parkinson’s disease remains a difficult task for doctors and researchers. At the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, biostatistician Juan Li is validating a model called PREDIGT that could end this uncertainty. The model, which her colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital have developed, combines information regarding environmental and genetic factors with gender and age to determine who has Parkinson’s and who could potentially develop the disease.

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Quality of life: how people with Parkinson’s define it


Dr. Ayse Kuspinar
Assistant Professor, McMaster University
Funded by Parkinson Society British Columbia
New Investigator Award
$89,249.51 over 2 years
Quality of Life

One of the tools researchers use to evaluate the risks, benefits and cost-effectiveness of new drugs or treatments is a questionnaire called a preference-based measure that assesses how a therapy will affect a patient’s quality of life. At McMaster University, Assistant Professor Ayse Kuspinar is asking people with Parkinson’s disease what constitutes quality of life. She’ll incorporate their values in the first Parkinson-specific preference tool to help researchers, clinicians and policymakers to evaluate treatments.

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Glutamate: The other brain chemical


Dr. Philippe Huot
Assistant Professor, McGill University
Funded by Rudy's Run in honour of Rudy Erfle
Pilot Project Grant
$50,000 over 1 year
Treatment of Parkinson's

At McGill University, Dr. Philippe Huot, a neurologist and assistant professor, is testing the ability of potential new drugs to regulate a signalling chemical in the brain called glutamate. Huot and his team believe glutamate plays a critical role in the uncontrollable movements (dyskinesia) that many people with Parkinson’s experience when they are on levodopa. Levodopa is the drug used to treat the loss of dopamine, another signaling chemical in the brain. Since the loss of one chemical can put the other one out of balance, Huot’s goal is to restore that balance and reduce the amount of levodopa that people take.

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A new target for deep brain stimulation that could directly improve walking


Linda Kim
PhD Candidate, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary
Funded by Parkinson Society British Columbia
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Treatment of Parkinson's

Stiffness, freezing and falling are among the problems that emerge when people have had Parkinson’s disease for some time. At the University of Calgary, PhD student Linda Kim is exploring ways to activate a group of cells in the brain called A13. She believes A13 might hold a reserved source of dopamine, the signaling chemical that’s instrumental to movement. Her research could present a new target for therapies to treat walking problems in people with Parkinson’s.

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Spinal cord stimulation device to improve mobility


Olivia Samotus
PhD candidate, Western University
Funded by The Lanka Charitable Foundation
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years
Treatment of Parkinson's

Shuffling, slowness, and freezing of gait reduce the independence and hamper the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s disease. At Western University, PhD student Olivia Samotus, a neuroscientist, is using an implantable battery that generates pulses of electricity sent to electrodes implanted above the spinal cord to see if this stimulation improves people’s walking ability and helps them regain independence.

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