Published: 2015-10-07 09:48 | Updated: 2015-10-07 18:45

Michael J. Fox Foundation grant to Parkinson research at KI

Andrea Varrone at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet receives 246,600 USD from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), for the development of an imaging agent for the visualisation in the living brain of a pathological protein called a-synuclein using positron emission tomography (PET).

The renowned advocate and actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at age 30. In 2010, he was made honorary doctor of medicine at Karolinska Institutet in recognition of his work to promote research and awareness of the disease. The MJFF supports several research projects aimed to develop methods to visualise a-synuclein. a-synuclein accumulates in the brain of patients with Parkinson´s disease and is involved in the pathology of the disease in a similar way as amyloid is involved in Alzheimer´s disease. Today, a-synuclein can be visualised after death, but not in the living brain.

– It would be very important for patients and clinicians to know if there is accumulation of a-synuclein in the brain. Confirmation of the pathology is important for diagnosis and choice of treatment, as well as prognosis. There is a strong interest in finding therapies based on molecules that interact directly with a-synuclein and an imaging agent could be a useful biomarker to evaluate the effect of such treatment, says Andrea Varrone.

The search for an imaging agent to visualise a-synuclein will be performed in collaboration with researchers at Karolinska Institutet, National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan, Umeå University and Astra Zeneca. The newly started project is also funded by the Stockholm Brain Institute.

– This grant is very important for me, because I have a strong interest in molecular imaging of neurodegenerative disorders and we currently have a research program in Parkinson´s disease. It will be a major breakthrough to have a new tool to study the pathology of the disease in living patients, says Andrea Varrone.

Text: Karin Söderlund Leifler

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).