February 24, 2003
School Receives Grant to Research Parkinson’s Disease
Tomás R. Guilarte, PhD, a professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, recently received a $463,000 grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) to research a diagnostic test, or biomarker, for Parkinson’s disease.
The purpose of Dr. Guilarte’s study is to determine whether the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR), a protein localized in microglial cells in the brain, can be used as an early biomarker of Parkinson's disease.
Dr. Guilarte explained, “We now have the ability to non-invasively measure and visualize PBR levels in cells that respond to brain inflammation and injury using imaging techniques. Therefore, if validated as an early biomarker of Parkinson's disease, this approach could be beneficial in the diagnosis and understanding of disease progression, as well as in assessing the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions.”
At present, there is no definitive diagnostic test for the disease and the misdiagnosis rate is estimated to be as high as 25 percent.
Dr. Guilarte’s grant is one of eight research projects to develop or validate a biomarker for Parkinson’s disease. The MJFF awarded a total of $1.6 million to research projects that would allow the biomarker to be easily reproduced and translated to clinical practice. The grants are one element of the MJFF’s research agenda to eliminate Parkinson’s disease within the firstname.lastname@example.org. Photographs of Tomas Guilarte are available upon request.