Where do the fundraising dollars go?
As a result of the success of the rides, Parkinson Canada created a Pedaling for Parkinson’s Research Grant. What this means is 100% of funds generated by riders during the event go towards this grant supporting some of the best and brightest minds in Canadian Parkinson's research.
Quote from Debbie Davis, Past Managing Director Ontario and Vice President, Mission:
Parkinson Canada is the only organization that specifically funds Parkinson’s research in Canada. The Parkinson Canada Research Program invests in Canadian research from the ground up - starting with the discovery stage - funding only those projects that meet a standard of excellence and that are relevant to Parkinson’s. Our approach to funding means that rather than awarding a limited number of large projects, we fund a larger number of smaller grants to researchers working on a wide variety of projects. The result is more researchers exploring novel ideas, providing a crucial foundation for advancing knowledge, improving treatments, developing potential therapies, and ultimately finding a cure. Funds raised through the Pedaling for Parkinson’s event will fund, in their entirety, two of these research projects, as part of six projects funded throughout its lifetime, in Ontario that have met the standard of excellence applied by the Scientific Advisory Board”
New Investigator Award Dr. Thomas M. Durcan
Investigating the effect of USP8-mediated deubiquitination on Parkin function
Parkin is the name of a protein that is part of a larger protein called E3 ubiquitin. This larger protein (E3) is involved in the progress of identifying and targeting other proteins that are destined for degradation (being destroyed). There is evidence that a mutation (something wrong) with the Parkin protein can lead to Parkinson's because in a mutated state, the Parkin protein is unable to destroy/eliminate defective mitochondria. There is evidence that defective mitochondria can adversely affect other cells, such as dopaminergic neurons, involved with movement. Therefore, Parkin needs to be working properly to help "protect" dopaminergic neurons.
Dr. Durcan is researching ways to help stop the Parkin protein from mutating so it stops working, and at the same time, promoting its "good" activity when in a normal state.
Dr. Durcan shared in his thank you letter to ride organizers "[m]y reason for working on Parkinson’s disease is that… with recent advances in cell biology and genetics, I believe the time is right for finding a potential cure for patients. While the work my group does is challenging, it’s immensely rewarding and it really feels that for the first time we are starting to finally understand this devastating disorder after so many years, with the hope that one or more treatments will emerge from my work and others to help cure this disorder.
New Investigator Award Dr. Lorraine Kalia
Alpha-synuclein in LRRK- 2-related Parkinson's disease
Discovered in 2004, leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) is the greatest known genetic contributor to Parkinson's disease (PD). By and large, Parkinson's has not been considered to be a genetic disease. The majority of cases are called idiopathic, which simply means that we don't know what caused the disease. In fact, only about 10 percent of PD cases have been linked to a genetic cause. Mutations in the LRRK2 gene are the most common cause of PD in this relatively small group, representing one to two percent of total Parkinson's cases.(Michael J Fox Foundation)
LRRK-2 related PD offers a unique human model to investigate the other pathological causes of PD and through her work, Dr. Lorraine has established the world’s largest collection of clinically characterized autopsy cases of LRRK-2-related PD.
In addition, α-synuclein, through immunoreactive interactions, is hypothesized to mediate neurodegeneration in PD and thereby contribute to its clinical expression of PD symptoms.
The results from Dr. Kalia's work will help determine the presence, distribution, and toxicity of α-synuclein in LRRK-2related PD and identify previously unknown clinicopathological correlations in this genetic form of the disease. Since LRRK-2-related PD can serve as a model of sporadic PD, her findings may have broader implications regarding how we understand the pathogenesis of PD and how we diagnose, and even define the disease.
Pilot Project Grant Dr. Natalina Salmaso
Elucidating the neuroprotective potential of astroglial cells in a rat model of Parkinson's disease
Astroglial neurons (type of cells in the brain) are integral to neuronal support both during normal function and in response to injury and neurodegeneration. While many studies have noted astroglial changes in morphology or proteins associated with astroglial neurons, only a handful of studies have examined the potential for astroglial cells to reverse or prevent neurodegenerative processes.
Dr. Salmaso and her team have recently conducted a preliminary study where they established a model for testing the therapeutic potential of stimulating astroglia neurons to help alleviate Parkinson’s disease. While there were a low number of subjects, the results were promising and suggested that daily astroglial stimulation for one week immediately following toxin injection is sufficient to "slow down" the effects and related behaviour (e.g., of Parkinson's).
Dr. Salmaso is testing the hypothessis that stimulation of these astroglial cells will prevent neurodegeneration and the related diseases (e.g., Parkinson's) and induce changes in astroglial-specific gene (and protein) expression that are related to changes in neurodegenerative processes.
Basic Research Fellowship Dr. Melanie Tremblay
Investigating the mechanisms and potential treatments for gambling behaviours developed following dopamine agonist treatment for Parkinson's Disease
L-DOPA, the first line treatment for Parkinson’s disease (PD), can cause other problems for patients such as dyskinesia symptoms, over time. In addition, other preferential dopamine treatments that have been successfully used as alternative therapies for the motor symptoms of PD, can lead to impulse control disorders (ICDs) like gambling disorders (GD), in a significant minority of patients.
Parkinson's is also associated with decreased serotonin (5-HT) signaling (involved in movement). Decreased synthesis of 5-HT is linked to loss of impulse control, and is associated with diseases marked by high impulsivity, such as bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Adjunctive therapies that could prevent these disastrous side-effects, while maintaining therapeutic efficacy for PD, are urgently needed.
Dr. Tremblay's work will be investigating the relationship of 5-HT and dopamine systems, as well as potentially open avenues for novel drug development. It could also improve quality of life and treatment options for PD patients and reveal new avenues for research in the treatment of other addictive disorders observed in PD patients following treatment.
In 2016 Pedaling for Parkinson's continued it's growth, raising in excess of $200,000 which has allowed for funding of two, two year grants through the Parkinson Canada research program. Specifically, the grant recipients are:
- Dr. Abid Oueslati , Two Year New Investigator Award researching a cell model of alpha-synuclein with a goal of understanding why Parkinson's progresses at different rates in different people.
- Dr. Joel Watts , Two Year New Investigator Award. Dr. Watts is taking the understanding built up around the diseases linked to the notorious prion proteins, and applying this knowledge to unravel the underlying molecular processes of Parkinson’s disease. His work promises to shed new light on the way in which a key protein spreads through the brain of someone with Parkinson’s disease, as well as revealing possible therapeutic targets for stopping that spread..
Below, Dr. Watts speaks to the value of the Pedaling for Parkinson's Research Grant and his project:
Thanks to your support, the event raised $174,629 and counting in support of research. We’re pleased to announce that this year’s recipients have been chosen, as follows:
- Dr. Frederic Bretzner, Two Year New Investigator Award investigating the Optimization of Deep Brain Stimulation sites. Read More.
- Dr. Austen Milnerwood , Two Year New Investigator Award investigating the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s relative to the gene LRRK2. Read More.
In 2014-15, Pedaling for Parkinson's will continue to fund the second year of Dr. Ali Salaphour's research (see below). Additionally, the fundraising success of the 2014 Event has allowed for two new Pedaling for Parkinson's Research Grant awards.
This year's recipients are:
- Pedaling for Parkinson's New Investigator Award: Dr. Scott Ryan. Dr. Ryan's research will target mitochondrial defects in a human stem cell model of Parkinson's. Read more about Dr. Ryan's research.
- Pedaling for Parkinson's Clinical Movement Disorders Fellowship (2014-16): Dr. Camila Henriques de Aquino. Dr. Henriques de Aquino's research will aim to improve Phase IIa clinical studies of new treatments for Parkinson's (using intravenous levodopa). Read more about Dr. Henriques de Aquino's research.
2018 Update: Dr. Scott Ryan
Dr. Ryan and his team at Univeristy of Guelph have recently publsihed results in Nature Communications. Says Ryan of his findings, "Identifying the crucial role cardiolipin plays in keeping these proteins functional means cardiolipin may represent a new target for development of therapies against Parkinson's disease," said Ryan, a professor in U of G's Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. "Currently there are no treatments that stop nerve cells from dying.”. The U of G researchers found that while cardiolipin in mitochondria pulls synuclein out of toxic protein deposits and refolds it into a non-toxic shape., in people with Parkinson's disease, this process is overwhelmed over time and mitochondria are ultimately destroyed, said Ryan. "As a result, the cells slowly die. Based on this finding, we now have a better understanding of why nerve cells die in Parkinson's disease and how we might be able to intervene." Read more on his project and the recent publication.
2016 Update: Dr. Scott Ryan
While little is known of the combination of genetic and environmental factors that trigger PD, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that agrochemical exposure (i.e. pesticides) is linked to disease etiology. Dr. Ryan's group has identified a pathway inactivated by both pesticides and disease mutations that represents a new target for drug development.
They are exploiting these findings to screen and characterize new drug candidates for therapy development.
The recipient of the 2013 Pedaling for Parkinson’s Research Grant was Dr. Ali Salahpour, from the University of Toronto. Dr. Salaphour is investigating mechanisms of dopamine transmission that may affect movement in Parkinson’s patients. Research being conducted is paving the way for a new class of drugs that can be used for treatment of Parkinson’s by changing the levels of dopamine production or the effectiveness of current drug therapies. View an infographic on his research.
Update: Dr. Ali Salaphour
2013 Pedaling for Parkinson's Grant Recipient Ali Salaphour has seen great success in his research and continues his investigation through a significant grant issued by CIHR. Specifically, he and his team were able to identify and characterize novel drugs affecting TAAR1 protein, which could lead to the enhancement of levodopa effects. The single most important observation from his study is that one of the compounds identified increases dopamine transmission in animals. Dr. Salahpour and his team are now investigating how exactly this is happening and whether they can further improve the compound. Read how he leveraged his $90,000 grant to more than $400,000 in new funding.
View an infographic on 2012 research recipient, Dr. Joanne Nash and her project.
The recipient of the 2012 Pedaling for Parkinson’s Research grant was Dr. Joanne Nash. Dr. Nash, from the University of Toronto, investigates the protective properties of a protein call sirtuin 3. She hopes to learn whether injecting more of this protein directly into the areas of the brain damaged by Parkinson’s disease will protect critical cells from dying, or even reverse damage. Her work could eventually lead to a new gene therapy or drug to treat of halt the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
As part of Parkinson’s Awareness Month, Dr. Nash delivered a presentation at Canadore College in Parry Sound. View the presentation entitled Treatments and cures for Parkinson's disease - light at the end of the tunnel; here.
Update: A note from Dr. Joanne Nash:
Dear Peter and David,
In 2012 I was the recipient for the Pedaling for Parkinson’s Pilot Grant Project. Hopefully you will recall, I visited Parry Sound to give a talk to the Parkinson’s Group in April 2013. We are now rounding up the project, and hoping to publish in early 2015.
The data look extremely positive. We have showed that our novel target was neuroprotective and neuroregenerative in two rodent models of Parkinson’s disease. We are now applying for funding to move this project forward into more clinically relevant models namely, primates and human stem cells. We are hoping to publish are current studies in a journal of high impact. We will be applying for funding to PSC and also the Fox Foundation. We also to learn more about the mechanisms of how our exciting target is working by applying for funding through the CIHR.
Thank you for your support on this project, it was much appreciated.
Joanne E. Nash, PhD