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Highlights From The Movement Disorders Society Virtual Congress 2020

Every year the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) holds a conference and every year APDA is there, learning about the newest research and sharing our resources with the wider PD community. The MDS Congress is the preeminent gathering of medical professionals from around the world who are dedicated to Parkinson’s disease (PD) and other movement disorders.  So much fascinating information is shared at the Congress that each year we report back to our readers about what we have learned. You can read our recaps from 2018 and 2019 to learn more.
This year the world has been turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and an international conference that typically brings together thousands of people from dozens of countries around the world, was not possible. And much like many other in-person gatherings, this one went virtual.  It was a great accomplishment to conduct such a massive meeting on a virtual platform, and it was very exciting to be a participant in that inaugural event.
The event consisted of scientific talks as well as abstracts, or brief reports of new research.
Highlights from the Research Presented
Here are my highlights from the research abstracts presented at the first-ever MDS Virtual Congress 2020 along with a comment about why each project is important. It was interesting to see several COVID-19-related research projects presented.
Neurological manifestations of COVID-19 in Parkinson’s disease (Agarwal, P. et al)
The abstract reported neurologic manifestations in seven patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and COVID-19. Among this cohort, it was common to present with neurologic symptoms such as increased confusion. One patient presented with falls and worsening of tremor, which was initially attributed to progression of PD. Two of the patients died and five recovered to their baseline.
Take home message: It is important to recognize neurological manifestations of COVID-19 in PD patients in order to correctly identify and treat COVID-19 in this population. (Learn more about research related to the intersection of PD and COVID-19.)
Utility of deep brain stimulation remote programming for Parkinson’s disease during the COVID-19 outbreak (Zhang C. et al)
SceneRay, a medical device company based in China developed a deep brain stimulation (DBS) system that enables remote programming. The system allows the physician to change the DBS parameters of an individual’s device from a remote location. This technology is not available yet in the US. This abstract described the experience of practitioners using this technology in six centers in China both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Take home message: Physician adjustment of DBS parameters remotely is available in some parts of the world (and hopefully will be available in the US in the future). Because of its convenience, it can be very helpful for patients who might have trouble getting to the doctor in person, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
UCB0599 transition to the clinic: An orally available brain-penetrant inhibitor of alpha-synuclein misfolding in Phase I development for Parkinson’s disease (Smit JW at al)
As explained in a recent blog, targeting of misfolded alpha-synuclein is one of the prime targets for

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APDA Announces Funding For 2020-2021 Research Grants

New, Innovative Parkinson’s disease Research Being Funded by APDA
For people impacted by Parkinson’s disease (PD) the search for answers – the causes, a cure, better treatments – may seem elusive, too slow, frustrating. But all of us at APDA will not give up our pursuit, and rather than be deterred, we are inspired, energized and hopeful about the progress that has been made. And we are particularly optimistic when we see the exciting new work being done by some of the brightest minds in PD and we are extremely proud to support these researchers with funding through our grant process.
Today, APDA announced our research grantees for the year ahead. Our grant recipients are working tirelessly to understand the complexities of PD in an effort to develop new treatments and eventually, a cure, and we are honored to support their work. This year APDA awarded $1.4 million in grants that will support a wide range of fascinating research. This year, we also awarded the first-ever APDA Diversity in
APDA Scientific Advisory Board Members
Parkinson’s Disease Research grant to help address the issues and disparities regarding PD in underserved populations – more info about this new grant below.
The APDA Scientific Advisory Board thoroughly vetted each application and chose these grantees very carefully. While the science can seem complicated and the medical jargon confusing, rest assured that this work is not only significant, but exciting as well. Below, I present the research proposals to you and point out why they are important.
Post-doctoral Fellowships
Post-doctoral fellowships are awarded to support post-doctoral scientists whose research holds promise to provide new insights into our understanding of PD.
April Darling, PhD
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Engineering therapeutic TRIM11 disaggregases
Major question to be answered: Can we create a molecule that efficiently prevents and dissolves aggregates of alpha-synuclein?
Why is this important? Such a molecule could serve as a new therapy for PD.
People with PD have protein deposits in their brain (Lewy bodies) which are composed of accumulated α-synuclein. Preventing α-synuclein aggregation and dissolving pre-formed aggregates may be an effective strategy for treating PD. A class of proteins known as protein disaggregases have the ability to dissolve protein aggregates. One recently identified disaggregase is TRIM11. This project aims to find the most effective variant of TRIM11 at dissolving aggregates and preventing clumping of α-synuclein.
 
Judit Pallos, Ph.D.
Oregon Health and Science University
Mechanisms of LRRK2-induced neurodegeneration
Major question to be answered: How does the protein Prospero, which is known to be involved in outgrowth of nerve cell projections, contribute to nerve cell death in an animal model of PD?
Why is this important? This work will further our understanding of why nerve cell death occurs in PD which may identify new targets for therapy,
Degeneration of the axon (the long projection of the nerve cell that extends out from the cell body to communicate with other nerve cells) is observed in the cells of people with PD as well as in animal models of the disease. Here, the role of the protein Prospero, known to control neuronal outgrowth, will be explored

Content provided by the American Parkinson Disease Association