Led by UC professor of neurology Alberto Espay, the research will examine the hypothesis that neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and dementia, when considered from genetic and molecular perspectives, are different from each other and that biomarker profiling of the different forms can lead to early diagnosis and the development of disease-specific neuroprotective treatments. To that end, the gift will fund a five-thousand-patient biomarker study, the first such study aimed at defining patient groups based on molecular causes of disease rather than its symptoms.
"Our team believes the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease will be complete only when a biomarker profiling is capable of identifying the molecular subtypes of disease and suggesting a disease-modifying treatment to apply to a given patient," said Espay, who also serves as director of the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders. "It is a revolutionary way of thinking about these diseases — as a symptom cluster of perhaps twenty or more unique biological diseases — and we are excited to identify them and get to work on finding effective treatments."
"My father wanted to eradicate this disease for my mother," said the Gardners' daughter, Peggy Johns. "We hope that findings from this study will shed light on the many causes of neurodegenerative diseases and bring us light years forward in finding a cure or cures."