The BioFIND Study: Investigating the Relationship Between Biomarkers and Clinical Symptoms

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) recently published findings from The Fox Investigation for New Discovery of Biomarkers (BioFIND) study in the journal Movement Disorders. The BioFIND study explores the relationship between Parkinson’s-associated protein levels at various sites within the body and physical symptoms experienced by individuals with PD. The results from the study indicate possible correlations between specific protein levels and symptoms that could help revolutionize the way clinical trial subjects are chosen, thus, potentially speeding up testing for new PD treatment options.

BioFIND study methods

Within the BioFIND study, data from 120 individuals with PD that was moderately advanced was compared to 100 healthy control participants. The study was observational in nature and took place over multiple sites in the United States. The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Un Jung Kang, works at Columbia University as the Chief of the Division of Movement Disorders. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), specifically the National Institute of Neurological Disorders within the NIH, supported the study, and data was collected from each individual at two different times over a two-week time period.

Results of the BioFIND study

Specifically, the researchers found that individuals with PD who had gait difficulty and postural instability also had lower levels of alpha-synuclein protein in their cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) when compared to the healthy control participants. However, levels of alpha-synuclein protein levels in the blood plasma and saliva were found to be similar in both groups. These results point towards a potential association between specific alpha-synuclein CSF protein levels and diagnosis of PD, as well as the development of PD that has accompanying motor-related symptoms.

Another protein, beta-amyloid, was found to be higher in the CSF of healthy control participants than in individuals with PD. Additionally, lower levels of this protein (which accumulates in plaques within the brain in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease) was associated with lower scores on a memory recall test. This finding suggests that lower levels of beta-amyloid in the CSF may be correlated with the diagnosis of PD, as well as with the development of PD that has accompanying cognitive deficiencies.

Of the study results, lead author Jennifer G. Goldman, MD, MS said, “These associations between protein levels and clinical symptoms can help us select participants for clinical trials. For example, people with lower beta-amyloid may be more likely to develop memory problems, and therefore would benefit more form a cognitive therapy. Enrolling this population in trials can help us see a treatment effect more clearly than testing the therapy on people who will not have this symptom.”1 Dr. Goldman is an associate professor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Next, the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) will attempt to strengthen the results of the BioFIND study. The PPMI will follow over 1,500 individuals at risk for developing PD, or who already have PD, as well as healthy control participants, for at least five years, and will investigate similar biomarkers.

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