Three top Mumbai hospitals part of nationwide study on Parkinson's

Updated: Feb 08, 2020, 08:08 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Jaslok, Global and Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospitals will help in the research on the genetic causes of the disease, which is funded by the Michael J Fox Foundation

Dr Pankaj Agarwal and Dr Annu Aggarwal
Dr Pankaj Agarwal and Dr Annu Aggarwal

For the first time, a nationwide study is being carried out on the genetic causes of Parkinson's Disease, and three of the city's top hospitals are participating in it. The study will include blood samples collected from 20 hospitals from across the country and is being funded by the US-based Michael J Fox Foundation.

Parkinson's Disease is a long-term, degenerative, neurological disease that causes a person to lose control over some body functions. While the Michael J Fox Foundation has given grants to various research projects for finding a cure for Parkinson's Disease, this is the first time it is funding a study in India. The study on the genetic architecture of Parkinson's Disease has been awarded a grant of R15 crore.

'A long-term benefit'
In Mumbai, Jaslok, Global and Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani (KDA) Hospitals will be part of the study. Dr Pankaj Agarwal, consultant neurologist, Global Hospitals, said that the study will have a long-term benefit. "We are trying to understand why this disease happens. Once we have a better understanding of the cellular mechanisms that lead to degeneration in this disease, scientists will be able to develop more targeted drugs that could act on those mechanisms."

Dr Annu Aggarwal, senior consultant neurologist at KDA Hospital explained that that if all goes well, the findings of the study could help develop personalised therapies for patients instead of just treating the symptoms. "The disease is inherited in less than 10 per cent of the cases. We need to understand what causes the degeneration and for that we want to study the genetic factors that cause the likelihood of Parkinson's Disease. There are eight to 20 genetic variants and we can study them using the computational method to see their protein and cellular function," she said.

Currently, patients of Parkinson's Disease have a few treatment options to choose from that offer a better quality of life. "There is a deficiency of dopamine in the brain of a Parkinson's patient. Currently, there are niche treatment options but we can only treat the symptoms. There is medication that targets the cells that produce dopamine. There is another option called deep brain stimulation surgery in which electrodes are installed in the brain," she said.

Data to be published
As part of the study, more than 40,000 blood samples will be collected, half of those from Parkinson's patients and half from healthy people (not blood relatives of Parkinson's patients). These samples will then be sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad for DNA analysis. "At hospitals, we will capture the clinical data. Once the DNA analysis is done, we will discuss and then publish the data which can then be used for future studies on target therapy," said Dr Pettarusp Wadia, consultant and coordinator of the Neurology Department at Jaslok Hospital. The R15 crore grant was awarded on the basis of a project report submitted by Dr Manu Sharma of the University Tuebingen, Germany and Professor Asha Kishore, director of Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology in Kerala. They will be part of the study. While Global Hospital has already started collecting the samples, Kokilaben is starting later this week while Jaslok will start next week.

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