Boston University Medical Center to Investigate Risk Factors for Parkinson’s Disease

(Boston) — Boston University Medical Center (BUMC) announced that it will participate as one of 23 clinical sites of the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative’s new arm to study populations who may be at increased risk for developing Parkinson’s disease (PD).  The additional arm of the $55 million landmark observational clinical study was added to better understand potential risk factors of the disease.  People who volunteer will not have any of the classic motor problems associated with PD.  The “pre-motor” arm of PPMI will enroll participants over the age of sixty, who do not have Parkinson’s disease and are living with either a reduced sense of smell, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) or a mutation in the LRRK2 gene (the single greatest genetic contributor to PD known to date). If one of these risk factors clearly leads to PD, the risk factors could enable earlier detection of PD and open new avenues in the quest for therapies that could slow or stop disease progression.

The initial study was launched in 2010 and is focusing on defining biological markers of PD in order to better diagnose and track PD.  Enrollment in the initial study is complete with over six hundred participants.  BUMC has been part of PPMI for three years and is expected to begin enrollment for the new, pre-motor arm of the study immediately.

“Understanding risk factors for Parkinson’s disease could help to identify therapies that may prevent the onset of motor symptoms in future generations of PD patients,” said Samuel Frank, MD, principal investigator at BUMC. “We are proud to participate in this innovative research and will look to the local community to continue to volunteer for this key study.”

People can easily get involved in this research by being one of 10,000 individuals needed to complete a brief online survey about their sense of smell. People over the age of 60 who do not have Parkinson’s disease are needed to take the survey at Most respondents will be sent a scratch-and-sniff smell test and brief questionnaire in the mail to be completed at home. Some individuals may also be asked to undergo more extensive testing.

“In the third year of PPMI, it is evident that a large-scale biomarker study is not only possible in Parkinson’s disease, but is already yielding scientific insights that could help transform the field of Parkinson’s research,” said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “None of this progress would be possible without the willing volunteers who donate their time and energy to the pursuit of a cure.”


To learn more about this study, visit the website or call 617-638-7745.






About The Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI)


The Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) is a $55-million international clinical study sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and funded by a consortium of 13 industry partners in conjunction with MJFF. Launched in 2010, PPMI aims to find reliable and consistent biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease (PD) progression. The study is testing today’s most promising biomarker candidates through neuroimaging, the collection of blood, urine, and spinal fluid, and clinical and behavioral tests. Valid measures could allow scientists to predict, objectively diagnose and monitor diseases in both Parkinson’s disease patients and populations at-risk to developing Parkinson’s.  In April 2013, PPMI completed the recruitment of 400 newly diagnosed PD patients and 200 control subjects and announced the addition of a new arm to investigate potential risk factors of the disease. Using the same infrastructure and protocols, the pre-motor arm of PPMI is evaluating three at-risk cohorts: individuals with decreased sense of smell (hyposmia), people diagnosed with REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), and those with a LRRK2 genetic mutation (the single greatest genetic contributor known to date).




Researchers interested in applying for access to PPMI data and biospecimens should visit




About The Michael J. Fox Foundation


As the world’s largest private funder of Parkinson’s research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson’s disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson’s patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers.  In addition to funding more than $325 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson’s research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson’s disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson’s awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world.