Impact of Grant Support from Team Parkinson/The Parkinson Alliance - 08/04/2009

From the Laboratories of Drs. Giselle M. Petzinger, MD and Michael W. Jakowec, PhD
Dept. of Neurology
University of California
June 12, 2009

    Grant support from Team Parkinson and The Parkinson Alliance plays a critical role in  supporting and nurturing research programs in finding new treatments and the cure for this degenerative disorder. In our laboratories these grants have played a vital role in permitting us to purchase necessary equipment as well as the materials and supplies to conduct experiments to generate data to support larger grant applications to the National Institutes of Health. For example, recent grants from Team Parkinson and The Parkinson Alliance were used primarily for the acquisition of a motorized rodent treadmill to exercise mice, upgrading the optics of the main microscope used in our labs, and acquisition of new electrophysiological equipment for studies of neuron physiology. Based on the stringent criteria used to evaluate proposals at the NIH, it is absolutely essential that strong preliminary data supporting hypothesis and validating technical approaches, as well as a track record of supportive publications, be included to strengthen an application.

        While our labs have been funded through the NIH in the past, the competition for scarce funds has made recent competition very fierce with many excellent proposals not able to achieve funding support. Despite these challenges, the grants from Team Parkinson and The Parkinson Alliance allowed us to continue our studies on the mechanisms of exercise-enhanced neuroplasticity in the MPTP-lesioned mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. Not only is our group involved in basic research with animal models of PD but also we have used these findings from the lab to generate testable hypotheses in clinical studies with patients with PD.  We have published several important manuscripts, with the acknowledgement of Team Parkinson and The Parkinson Alliance, and based on the comments from colleagues in the field and reflected in invitations to present our data at international meetings and seminars, has established our research group as one of the leading teams in this field in both basic research and clinical studies. In fact, we are one of the few groups that have developed a translational research program spanning the spectrum from the lab to the clinic, all within the same academic center. A major focus of our research group is to solidify many of our ongoing and proposed projects under the auspices of a program project through the NIH.

        Findings from our labs have begun to elucidate our understanding of the underlying molecular and physiological mechanisms by which neuroplasticity in the injured brain influences motor behavior. A major aspect of our studies, examining the role of the glutamatergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission systems through our multifaceted experimental approaches, has now received support from the National Institutes of Health in the form of an RO1 made possible by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). This grant entitled “Dopamine-glutamate plasticity in the injured basal ganglia: The role of exercise” is a two-year grant. This is a multi-principal investigator grant between the labs of Drs. Michael Jakowec, John Walsh, and Giselle Petzinger. These funds are essential in moving forward studies in our research group and would not have been possible with the support of Team Parkinson/The Parkinson Alliance through their granting program. In addition to this current grant we also have several proposals pending review or recently reviewed. One proposal to the NIH received a strong score but will require additional preliminary data to propel it into the funding range. These essential supportive preliminary data would not be possible without the generous support of Team Parkinson and The Parkinson Alliance.