Parkinson’s Foundation Grants $250K for Parkinson’s UK Treatment Project

Parkinson’s Foundation

As part of a new partnership with Parkinson’s UK, the Parkinson’s Foundation has granted the nonprofit $250,000 toward a prospective new treatment linked to mitochondrial function that is being developed in the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech program.

The grant will help advance a project aimed at uncovering new methods of potentially impeding brain cell death through stabilization of the source of energy necessary for cell survival — the mitochondria. It’s the first international funding for the Parkinson’s UK-led program and marks the beginning of a collaborative effort to move forward promising Parkinson’s (PD) treatment research.

“We are pleased to partner with Parkinson’s UK to further innovative research that will help the international PD community,” John Lehr, president and CEO of the Parkinson’s Foundation, said in a press release. “This collaboration will help us better serve people living with Parkinson’s today while furthering the promise of a cure tomorrow.”

Parkinson’s UK and its supporters and collaborators each year invest more than $5 million in Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech — the organization’s drug discovery and development arm — focusing on projects with the potential to transform patients’ lives. Fueled by project-specific partnerships with some of the world’s top research organizations, the program’s goal is to invest $29 million by the end of 2021.

“We are delighted to receive this investment from the Parkinson’s Foundation to support a growing portfolio of projects in our Virtual Biotech,” said Steve Ford, chief executive of Parkinson’s UK. “While we have made huge strides in our research efforts, we have long recognized that we can’t do it alone. The Parkinson’s Foundation shares this philosophy that we’re better together, and their investment marks a new chapter that will help ensure the Parkinson’s community receives the new treatments it needs.”

With its grant, the Parkinson’s Foundation is focusing on a £98,000 (about $126,000) year-long project with the University of Sheffield that began in August called “Novel Mitochondrial Rescue Compounds.”

Through compound modification, scientists will seek to discover and develop a potential therapy that could protect the dopamine-producing brain cells affected by Parkinson’s. The hope is that the most promising study compound ultimately will result in prospective brain cell-protecting treatments that could slow PD progression and enhance patients’ lives.

Parkinson’s is caused by the death or malfunction of dopaminergic neurons, which regulate muscle movement and coordination. To do their job, these nerve cells require large amounts of mitochondra-provided energy. Studies have widely suggested that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a central role in the development of PD.

To date, the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech program has invested in seven drug discovery and development projects.

In addition to this collaboration, the two PD organizations also are working together on Parkinson’s Revolution, an indoor cycling fundraiser slated for Feb. 8 across the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The event is designed to highlight the benefits of exercise in PD while also raising funds for research and programs.

Since 1957, the Parkinson’s Foundation has invested more than $353 million in PD research and clinical care. Parkinson’s UK is Europe’s largest charitable funder of Parkinson’s research.

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Parkinson’s Foundation Launches International Cycling Event to Promote Exercise, Raise Funds

cycling event, fundraising

The Parkinson’s Foundation is launching a new initiative called Parkinson’s Revolution, a global cycling event designed to highlight the benefits of exercise in Parkinson’s disease while also raising funds for research.

A new signature event for the foundation, Parkinson’s Revolution is an indoor cycling program taking place Feb. 8 at studios in seven U.S. cities — Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The program will also involve select locations in Canada and the United Kingdom. The fundraising goal for each site is $10,000.

“Parkinson’s Revolution is a great example of how the international [Parkinson’s] community is rallying together to combine the benefits of exercise and critical fundraising for research in one event,” John Lehr, the foundation’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “We are honored to work alongside Parkinson Canada and Parkinson’s UK to further our mission to make life better for people with Parkinson’s.”

In a high-energy environment including motivational music and instruction, participants of all abilities will select either a 90- or 45-minute ride as individuals or as part of a team. Supporters who can’t make it in person may saddle up at home or a local studio and raise funds as “virtual riders.” The foundation is asking each person to commit to fundraising a minimum of $250.

Money raised will go directly toward research, resources, and patient care. In addition to offering an opportunity to meet fellow supporters, each Parkinson’s Revolution event will include information about the Parkinson’s Foundation.

Click on a city or “virtual ride” at this site to register. After signing up, participants will be sent tools needed to reach — or exceed — fitness and fundraising goals.

Exercise is particularly important for Parkinson’s patients, helping them maintain balance, mobility, and the ability to do daily tasks. Scientists have found that those who exercise at least 2.5 hours weekly also experience a slower decline in their quality of life.

In addition, researchers have studied the brains of mice that exercised under conditions similar to a human being on a treadmill. While exercise did not increase the number of neurons or amount of dopamine in mice’s brains, it did prompt their brains to use dopamine more efficiently.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate movement and emotional response. A lack of it is associated with neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s, which affects nearly 1 million U.S. residents and 10 million individuals globally.

Watch this Parkinson’s Revolution video from the Parkinson’s Foundation:

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Parkinson’s Foundation Opens Campaign to Support Newly Diagnosed

Parkinson's Foundation program

To provide new patients with the information, tools and resources they need to best manage their health, the Parkinson’s Foundation has launched a campaign to close the gap between learning of an illness and knowing how and where to find help.

Called “Newly Diagnosed: Building a Better Life with Parkinson’s Disease,” the effort is said to be the first such national campaign designed to reach the 60,000 people in the U.S. estimated to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s (PD) every year.

“In an effort to help provide better outcomes from the beginning of their journey, the Parkinson’s Foundation is whole-heartedly committed to connecting sooner with those facing a life-changing diagnosis,” John L. Lehr, the foundation’s president and CEO, said in a news release. “Our goal is to empower everyone new to our community to build a better life with Parkinson’s from day one while addressing their unmet needs.”

The organization surveyed more than 1,100 PD patients in January to better understand the needs and priorities of the newly diagnosed. Results showed that 42 percent of patients and 45 percent of their care partners had received no educational materials about Parkinson’s within six months of diagnosis.

Those findings led to the campaign, which seeks to not only connect with new patients early, but to provide ongoing support. The effort will include a free Newly Diagnosed Kit that may be ordered or downloaded, educational programs focused on care and research, funding for community grants that help the newly diagnosed, relevant podcasts, and an online community to be launched later this year aimed at establishing peer-to-peer connections.

“Early in my diagnosis with Young Onset Parkinson’s, I realized that I couldn’t find all of the answers I was looking for,” said Christina Korines, who was diagnosed at 33. “I needed a partner to help me navigate my diagnosis, and the Parkinson’s Foundation is the go-to partner for anyone diagnosed with Parkinson’s, especially the newly diagnosed.”

The organization now offers has a video and other information for new patients, including Five Steps to Living Well. More information is also available by calling the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at 800-4PD-INFO.

Parkinson’s disease affects nearly 1 million U.S. residents and nearly 10 million people globally. After Alzheimer’s, it’s the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the U.S.

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Parkinson’s Foundation to Present Spanish-language Conference Oct. 19

Parkinson's Foundation conference

The Parkinson’s Foundation’s fourth annual Spanish-language conference, set for Oct. 19 in Norwalk, California, will provide the latest information about Parkinson’s disease treatment and management.

Called “Hacia Adelante: Navegando el Mar del Parkinson’s” (“Forward: Sailing the Parkinson’s Sea”), the free conference is for patients, families, and healthcare providers interested in learning how to live well with Parkinson’s. All sessions and activities will be conducted in Spanish.

“Parkinson’s is more prevalent in Hispanics than in any other U.S. ethnic group, but studies confirm that many Hispanics are underserved when it comes to accessing necessary Parkinson’s information, treatment and care,” Fernando Cubillos, MD, the foundation’s senior director of research programs, said in a press release.

“As part of our mission to tackle this problem head on, we’re providing this conference to better empower and serve Latinos living with the disease through expert care, education and advocacy that is patient and community centered.”

In addition to presentations by a host of expert physicians and advocates, the event will include question-and-answer sessions, community resources, exercise and dance demonstrations, live music performances, and complimentary meals and parking. Grammy and Latin Grammy award-winning music producer Sebastian Krys will talk about his experience with Parkinson’s. The conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 13111 Sycamore Drive.

Conference topics were chosen by the community. They include symptom management, healthcare system navigation, exercise, remaining motivated in the face of Parkinson’s, and caregiving as a family. Register here or by calling the bilingual Parkinson’s Foundation helpline at 800-473-4636.

On a related topic, the foundation presents a new episode of the podcast, “Substantial Matters: Life and Science of Parkinson’s,” every other Tuesday. In one episode — “What We’ve Learned from the Hispanic Parkinson’s Community” — Claudia Martinez, the Hispanic outreach coordinator at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, describes the methods she uses to help Hispanic patients get the best possible care.

The most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s affects nearly 1 million U.S. residents and 10 million globally. In the United States alone, 60,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.

The Parkinson’s Foundation works to enhance patient care and advance research toward a cure.

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Two Parkinson’s Organizations Issue a Total of $5.9M in Research Grants

research grants

The Parkinson’s Foundation and the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) have announced a combined $5.9 million in research grants.

For its part, the Foundation is investing $4.2 million in 46 grants to advance promising Parkinson’s disease investigations into new therapies and how the disease works. It also is awarding $8 million to four newly designated Parkinson’s Foundation Research Centers to design and launch studies over the next four years.

“The Parkinson’s Foundation is committed to moving the needle forward in new treatments, medications and better understanding symptoms and disease progression,” John Lehr, the Foundation’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “These research grants are a critical component in our mission to make life better for people with Parkinson’s by improving care and advancing research towards a cure,” he said.

Ranging in length from several months to three years, the awards will go to clinicians and postdoctoral researchers, as well as established scientists. In addition, this grant cycle adds the Melvin Yahr Early Career Award in Movement Disorders Research, created to support post-residency neurologists. The two-year $50,000 grant will support study into brain inflammation in Parkinson’s patients.

“This award is critical for my early independent career development and will help me establish a research program of my own,” said Yulan Xiong, assistant professor at Kansas State University and Stanley Fahn Junior Faculty Award recipient. “The support from the Parkinson’s Foundation will help us better understand a critical PD-related gene. We expect this study will lead to new discoveries in Parkinson’s disease.”

The $8 million in institutional grants — $2 million for each center — will go to Columbia University Irving Medical Center, the University of Florida in collaboration with Emory University, the University of Michigan in collaboration with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Yale School of Medicine. These recipients were chosen based on criteria such as research novelty and the ability to address unmet needs in Parkinson’s research.

More information about Parkinson’s Foundation research grants is available here.

At the American Parkinson Disease Association, researchers have been granted $1.7 million for study programs including T-cells and their disease role, genetic factors among Hispanic populations, and the prospects of telehealth psychotherapy in relieving depression.

Awardee highlights include Vikram Khurana, MD, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, winner of the three-year George C. Cotzias Fellowship, the APDA’s most prestigious grant.  He will seek to learn how alpha-synuclein mutation or over-expression affects mRNA regulation in Parkinson’s, which could helpscientists to identify new therapeutic targets and potential gene therapies.

Livia Hecke Morais, PhD, California Institute of Technology, is a post-doctoral fellow who will study microbial brain interaction in Parkinson’s neurodegeneration to understand the relationship between gut bacteria and the disease. This ultimately may lead to the design of new therapies that target gut bacteria for treating Parkinson’s disease.

Research fellow Brian Daniels, PhD, Rutgers University in New Jersey, will investigate RIPK3, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as a driver of  inflammation in Parkinson’s disease.

Research fellow Xianjun Dong, PhD, Harvard Medical School in Boston, will explore the possibility of a novel link between genetic susceptibility and Parkinson’s disease.

“We are excited for these researchers to dig deep into their work, and have hope for meaningful outcomes that can make a difference for people living with PD,” the APDA announcement stated.

A list of awardees and descriptions of research projects is available here.

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Parkinson’s Advocates Set to Lobby US Lawmakers for Greater Research Support, Patient Assistance

Parkinson's Policy Forum

Joined by leaders in Parkinson’s (PD) research and public policy, some 150 patients and advocates from across the nation will gather in Washington, D.C., on Monday for the 2019 Parkinson’s Policy Forum.

The annual advocacy event, taking place Sept. 9–10, is presented this year by the Parkinson’s Foundation and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), with support from nine other organizations. With the aim of improving the impact of policy on PD research and care, the forum offers an opportunity for those living with Parkinson’s to not only connect, but to share their journey with elected officials.

”Policy and research must work hand-in-hand to speed scientific breakthroughs for patients and their families,” Todd Sherer, PhD, the Fox foundation’s CEO, said in a news release. “The Parkinson’s Policy Forum brings the community together to advocate for government policies that support research and care. Its goal is to improve quality of life for everyone impacted by the disease today.”

Forum attendees — mostly patients and care partners — will spend a full day with foundation and its scientific and policy experts brushing up on effective advocacy, and exploring ways to help shape their message. They’re off to Capitol Hill the next day, where advocates will apprise legislators of the ways in which policy can help — or hinder — Parkinson’s research and care. They’ll focus specifically on the economic burden of PD, as well as recent legislative moves to limit out-of-pocket prescription medicine costs for Medicare patients, and improve access to mental health services.

The nonprofit organizations said it’s vital that advocates and policymakers seize on current momentum in Parkinson’s, particularly in research and clinical drug testing. By next year, it is estimated that nearly 1 million U.S. residents will be living with the progressive disease.

”People with Parkinson’s disease and their families need legislative action with increased federal research funding to expand access to care that will help patients live healthier lives,” said John Lehr, CEO of the Parkinson’s Foundation. “The Parkinson’s Foundation leverages our nationwide network of healthcare professionals and research advocates to mobilize around PD community policy priorities. To better serve people with Parkinson’s and their families we must ensure they continue to have their voice heard by lawmakers.”

Visit this site for more forum information.

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‘Women and PD’ Project by Parkinson’s Foundation Urges Changes in Research and Care

Women and PD Talk

Leading the first national effort to address long-standing gender disparities in Parkinson’s (PD) research and care, the Parkinson’s Foundation has developed patient-centered recommendations to promote the needs women in the U.S. living with the disease.
Drawn from the foundation’s two-year Women and PD Teams to Advance Learning and Knowledge (Women and PD Talk) project, the recommendations identify research and healthcare priorities voiced by women, while suggesting ways researchers might better address them. They are outlined in the report “Women and Parkinson’s: Closing the Gender Gap in Research and Care.”
Suggestions focus on research, care, and education and empowerment, and, under each topic, priority areas. Identified by women with PD, medical professionals and care teams, these priorities range from greater representation of women in Parkinson’s research, to more accessible care and patient self-management.
The overall purpose of the suggestions — known as the first research and care agenda in the U.S. specific to women — is to promote research and care practices that enable women with Parkinson’s to maximize their quality of life. They’re intended for use by researchers, medical professionals, funding agencies, and patients and their care teams.
“We really want to make sure that women are front and center in care, and that means working with societal structures to make sure women are prioritizing care,” Megan Feeney, the foundation’s spokesperson for Women and PD Talk, said in a phone interview with Parkinson’s News Today.
Parkinson’s affects roughly 1 million men and women in the United States and more than 10 million globally, with male patients outnumbering females by 3 to 2, Feeney said. The disease’s lower rate among women is not fully understood, as disease risk is due to multiple factors, including biology, environmental exposures and behavior, the report said. But this risk does increase with age, and women on average live longer than men.
At the crux of the project is the fact that, historically, Parkinson’s care has been based on studies that have focused mostly on men, or have not considered gender differences, the foundation said.
For instance, women can react differently to therapies and are more likely to receive lower-quality care, like poorer access to neurologists and other specialists, according to the report’s executive summary. They can also experience the disease differently. Women can have relatively more non-motor symptoms, such as cognitive and psychological issues that disproportionately affect their quality of life, then do men. Women also report more changes in their symptoms throughout the day, and compared with men, are more likely to be single or widowed.
“While the risk of developing PD is reduced in women, those diagnosed with the disease can encounter greater hurdles in obtaining an accurate diagnosis, experience more non-motor symptoms, face greater treatment-related dyskinesias, and may be less likely to see medical specialists than men with PD,” the publication said.
Funded for 2017–19 through a $250,000 Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute grant, Women and PD Talk is an outgrowth of the foundation’s umbrella Women and PD Initiative, which aims to ensure the health and well-being of female patients.
Over the past two years, the foundation and female stakeholders across the community hosted 10 regional forums — the final one in June — to educate and to understand the experiences of women with PD.  Attendees included healthcare professionals, government representatives, and care partners.
During breakout sessions, these women —  a total of 242 patients and 178 stakeholders — helped identify priorities and possible solutions. The national forum in Houston brought together 15 regional team leaders and 36 stakeholders to turn the real-world insights into an action plan for PD care.
“We asked people at the national forum to further prioritize, and to decide what researchers should focus on,” Feeney said. “That led to the agenda.”
Below are agenda topics, and a brief review of their priority areas and recommendations:


1. Inclusiveness: Parkinson’s cannot be fully understood without greater representation of women in PD research, including studies of disease mechanisms, progression, and treatment response. More focus on recruiting female patients, reflecting a representative sample by demographics and disease stages, is crucial.
2. Relevance: Parkinson’s research must be relevant to women, and be designed around their unique needs. Research must include topics examining the effects of biological sex, including sex hormones, as they relate to PD risk, progression, and treatment response. Research must also examine the qualitative impact of PD on women. Additional study is needed to better understand the differences between aging, menopause, and Parkinson’s.
3. Quality: Existing data should be pooled and analyzed for information about women with PD. Further research findings should be required to be analyzed in consideration of sex/gender.


4. Accessibility: Parkinson’s care must be accessible to women. Programs should target health, wellness and PD management, and should help women feel comfortable and included.
5. Personalization: Parkinson’s care should be personalized to women. Biological and gender/cultural differences influence PD health outcomes, and programs should be designed to address these differences.
6. Communication: Medical professionals and women with Parkinson’s should utilize shared decision-making tools to better communicate, and work together to identify treatment goals. Medical professionals should improve communication within the medical community to appropriately connect women with PD to available comprehensive services.

Education and Empowerment 

7. Self management: Provide women early in their diagnosis with the knowledge and tools needed to maintain a desired quality of life. Tools should assist them with maintaining their personal and professional relationships while managing their disease.
8. Shared responsibility: Care teams should better understand the needs and priorities of women with PD, be more involved, and not depend on a patient understanding of all aspects of her disease. Women also need access to peer-to-peer services created for women only.
9. Advocacy: Additional education efforts are necessary to increase public awareness about PD. Advocacy is needed to minimize the disparities women with PD experience. Additional attention to resources for women with PD should be a public policy issue.
Efforts don’t end there, Feeney said. The idea is to continue to build momentum with ongoing collaboration.
After all, women’s health outcomes are not solely dependent on medical care, genetics or biology, an initiative publication states. Societal norms, health behaviors, places of residence, and support structures are among factors that interact to influence their experiences.
“This is a multi-year project,” Feeney added. “Moving forward, we’ll continue to do other things to address these disparities.”

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New PDGENEration Program Will Offer Free Genetic Testing for Parkinson’s Patients


PDGENEration, a new program offered through the Parkinson’s Foundation, will provide free genetic testing for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Around 15% of Parkinson’s cases are thought to involve a significant genetic component — but genetic testing for the disease has not been common.

“Mutations in several different genes increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease,” Roy N. Alcalay, MD, MS, a neurology professor at Columbia University and principle investigator of PDGENEration, said in a press release. “Until recently, we rarely offered genetic testing for people with Parkinson’s because the benefit had been unclear.”

That paradigm is changing, though. Thanks to recent research, an individual’s genetics can sometimes be used to predict disease outcomes, and new medications that are designed for people with specific Parkinson’s-associated mutations are starting to enter clinical trials.

“From our own genetic studies, I realized many people were eligible to enroll in such trials, but they didn’t know it because nobody told them about their genetic status,” Alcalay said. “I wanted to find a simple, ethical way to offer Parkinson’s patients information about their genotype if they are interested.”

That led to PDGENEration, which aims to give free genetic testing and counseling to people with Parkinson’s. The program currently is only available at Columbia, but there are plans to expand it to other centers in the U.S., with a goal of enrolling 15,000 patients. There are no age restrictions to participation.

PDGENEration will test patients for seven genes that are known to be related to Parkinson’s: GBA (glucocerebrosidase beta), LRRK2 (dardarin), PRKN (Parkin), PINK1 (PTEN induced putative kinase 1), PARK7 (DJ-1), VPS-35, and SNCA (alpha-synuclein).

As an illustration of the possible utility of this test, take GBA, which is mutated in up to 10% of people with Parkinson’s. The enzyme that this gene codes for helps cells clear out gunk, so when the gene doesn’t work, toxins can accumulate in cells. That is thought to be the mechanistic link to Parkinson’s. Clinical trials specific for Parkinson’s patients with GBA mutations are already enrolling (e.g. NCT02906020).

In addition to giving some patients information about clinical trials for which they might be eligible, PDGENEration hopes to gather data that will help researchers and clinicians to better understand the genetics of the disease. This will go beyond the seven known genes and include sequencing of all of the parts of the genome that code for protein (whole-exome sequencing).

“These data may be used for future discovery of additional Parkinson’s-related genes,” said Alcalay, adding, “We will invite all those who completed the genetic study to enroll in a longitudinal follow-up study, which could help us better understand how these mutations affect Parkinson’s progression. For instance, can patients with these genetic risk factors modify their risk with lifestyle changes?”

The genetic testing results obtained through this study will be confidentially sent to a secure central database for future Parkinson’s-related research.

More information about the program and how to enroll can be found here.

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Parkinson’s Foundation Names Three New Centers of Excellence

Parkinson’s Foundation Research Centers 

The Parkinson’s Foundation has added three Centers of Excellence to its international network of expert care providers for Parkinson’s disease  patients.

The new centers are the University of Colorado Movement Disorders Center, Jefferson Health’s Comprehensive Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorder Center, and Indiana University School of Medicine. The addition brings the foundation’s total number of centers to 48, including 34 in the United States.

The network’s hospitals and academic centers provide specialized teams of neurologists, movement disorder specialists, physical and occupational therapists, and mental health professionals, who are at the leading edge of  treatments and innovations for Parkinson’s.

”The newly designated Centers of Excellence join a network that is setting the highest standards of care for people with [Parkinson’s] worldwide,” John L. Lehr, CEO and president of the foundation, said in a press release. “We are proud to further our commitment to improving the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s and making a difference in underserved communities across the country.”

In making its selections, the foundation gave priority to medical centers that, in their applications, emphasized underserved populations. Each selected center also had to demonstrate the ability to provide top-shelf, evidence-based, patient-focused care, and to conduct pertinent clinical investigations that center on patient needs. In addition, each center had to show leadership in professional training, and be meaningfully involved in patient education and community outreach.

“We learned so much about our own program going through the rigorous process to receive the designation as a Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence,” said Maureen Leehey, MD, professor of neurology and chief of the movement section at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

”The team at the University of Colorado is thrilled to be part of a larger network of high-performing sites that allow us to share what we do well and create opportunities to raise the bar by incorporating successful programs from other sites,” Leehey said.

According to the press release, it’s likely only a “small percentage” of those living with Parkinson’s get optimal care from medical experts who specialize in the complicated disorder. The Center of Excellence network seeks to help remedy that. After five years, each center must recertify to ensure continuance of mandatory care standards.

Several centers are involved in the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project — the largest clinical investigation the foundation funds — which follows some 12,000 patients over time to learn which therapies work best. Indiana University participates in the PD GENEration effort, which provides free genetic counseling for the study.

Visit this website to find a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, or call 800-4PD-INFO.

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Grants Will Establish Exercise Program for Parkinson’s Patients in Arkansas

exercise program

Grants totaling nearly $29,000 will enable the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)  to establish a free exercise program for patients with Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

Some $13,924 from the Parkinson’s Foundation will go toward program staffing, training and other support. A $15,000 grant from the Philip R. Jonsson Foundation will pay for equipment. Classes start Aug. 20.

Designed to enhance patients’ overall quality of life, the program’s regimen will emphasize strength maintenance, balance improvement, and cognitive and social engagement.

“Treating Parkinson’s disease involves treating the whole person, and that means going beyond what we can accomplish during a clinical visit,” Rohit Dhall, MD, said in a press release. Dhall is director of neurodegenerative disorders in the UAMS department of neurology. “I am so happy that the central Arkansas Parkinson’s community will be able to benefit from this evidence-based, high-quality exercise program — all free of charge.”

Fitness instructors will receive Parkinson Wellness Recovery (PWR!) certification in PWR!Moves group and circuit class formats. The funding also will enable a physical therapist specializing in Parkinson’s disease to receive certification in research-based exercise approaches and task-specific training routines.

PWR!Moves is a Parkinson’s-specific skill-training program aimed at maintaining or restoring skills that deteriorate and interfere with everyday movements. Specifically, the program targets antigravity extension, weight shifting, axial mobility and transitions. The regimen aims to counteract Parkinson’s symptoms such as rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), lack of coordination, and loss of motor automaticity.

In the group class, patients will learn how to offset Parkinson’s symptoms and move “bigger and faster” during daily life. The course is designed to be fun and supportive, but physically and cognitively challenging.

The circuit will incorporate PWR!Moves into athletics, fitness and conventional gym activities such as coordination, strength, balance, agility, and flexibility training. Using different exercise stations — each with a specific focus — patients will work alone or with partners.

While each participant will receive personalized input regarding needs and goals, the program is crafted to benefit patients regardless of fitness and symptom levels. For instance, a new Solo-Step overhead track and harness system — in which a torso harness attaches to a room-length ceiling track — allows patients with concerns about balance or strength to exercise safely. Other grant-funded equipment will help participants with functions such as walking on uneven surfaces.

“Our approach combines the best of an individualized exercise experience with the social nature of group exercise,” said Chris Oholendt, program manager for UAMS outpatient physical therapy/occupational therapy. “We are thrilled to provide people with Parkinson’s and their care partners this unique program that will change the way they live with PD for the better.”

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