Kerala’s iconic Sree Chitra medical research institute to now lead study on Parkinson’s

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Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, SCTIMST, parkinson's disease, study on parkinson's, genome-wide association study on parkinson's, Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

After successfully coming up with a breakthrough treatment solution for cancer, the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram will now be leading India's first-ever study on the DNA changes that result in Parkinson's disease, according to a report in Manorama. The study is a joint endeavour between SCTIMST and Germany's Centre for Genetic Epidemiology, University of Tuebingen. For the purpose of the research, as many as 20,000 people will reportedly be recruited. Half of them would be healthy and the other half would be those suffering from Parkinson's.

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The research has received a grant of around Rs 17 crore (US$ 2.3 million) from the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), which is a foundation dedicated to finding a cure for the disease. The grant was awarded on the basis of project reports submitted by Dr Manu Sharma from the University of Tuebingen and Professor Asha Kishore, Director of SCTIMST) and Movement Disorder Specialist. This is the first time that MJFF is funding studies outside of Europe, having simultaneously awarded grants to researches in Africa and East Asia.

The study will be a Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS), which means the researchers will look for any genetic variations to see if any variant can be linked to the Parkinson's disease. They will track for a nucleotide, the building block of the DNA, in all the 20,000 individuals to establish a link between a variant nucleotide and the disease. If the study proves fruitful, it would result in the development of therapies that could be personalised.

Since the discovery of the first genetic mutation linked to Parkinson's in 1997, as many as 90 genetic differences have been discovered. A microscopic study into these abnormalities could help understand how they impact individual cells causing Parkinson's.

Apart from the two main institutions, around 20 Indian specialists from different centres will also be a part of the team conducting the study. Parkinson's is a progressive nervous system disease and it affects the movement of an individual. It occurs in 1% of the people over the age of 60 and 4% of those aged above 85. Only 5-10 per cent of cases show a clear indication of a hereditary problem resulting in Parkinson's. So far, most of the research on the disease is limited to Europe and the study on the disease in other parts of the world could lead to health experts getting a better insight into the possible treatments for Parkinson's.