Parkinson Alberta – April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Research & Innovation:  2016 Update

Supporting research has always been a core pillar of Parkinson Alberta.  Alberta is home to many talented researchers who are taking on Parkinson disease from a variety of perspectives, all aimed at making a difference in the lives of people affected by Parkinson’s.

Over the past seven years Parkinson Alberta has contributed over a half million dollars to Parkinson’s research.  In 2013 Parkinson Alberta Board of Directors initiated a Research Committee, led by Dr. Oksana Suchowersky to steward research funds.  And in 2015, pledged to match funds, up to $200,000, raised via donations to research and our Champions of Hope Program to further medical research and innovation on the Parkinson disease front.

So who are some of our researchers?  What do they study?  And how is their work relevant to Parkinson disease?  We are pleased to showcase three research projects Parkinson Alberta has contributed research monies to.

Dr. Patrick Flood

Dr. Patrick Flood is a professor at University of Alberta’s School of Dentistry with a cross-appointment in Microbiology and Immunology.  Dr. Flood has been a full-time researcher since the 1980s, and has been working in the Neuroscience and Neuro-inflammation field for the last seven years.

Dr. Flood and his two graduate students are focused on determining the role of inflammation in Parkinson’s and how can affecting change in that inflammation alter progression of the disorder.

One of the keys to Parkinson’s is understanding very early on how this inflammation is activated and progresses, and intervene at that time.  Secondarily if an individual already has symptoms, how one can, in essence, reverse the process so instead of the destruction of nerve cells there could actually be regeneration.  Dr. Flood’s research looks at understanding when inflammation is activated, how it progresses over a longer period of time and ultimately developing anti-inflammatory treatments that may be effective in stopping and/or reversing the progression of Parkinson disease.

Dr. Janis Miyasaki

Dr. Janis Miyasaki, MD, MEd, FRCPC is the Director of the Movement Disorders Program at the University of Alberta, Kaye Edmonton Clinic and University Hospital.  Dr. Miyasaki completed her medical school, residency and fellowship in Movement Disorders at the University of Toronto.  During her time there, Dr. Miyasaki developed an Interdisciplinary Palliative Care Program for Parkinson disease and related disorders, the first of its kind in the world.

Dr. Miyasaki and her fellow are conducting research on Advanced Care Planning.  Advanced Care Planning involves learning about the types of healthcare decisions that might need to be made for the future , thinking about those decisions ahead of time, and letting others (family members, healthcare team, other care providers) know about preferences by way of both discussion and documentation.

Dr. Miyasaki’s research in Advanced Care Planning aims to help patients contemplate and initiate the discussions necessary to help them and their families make informed decisions so that they may lead their best possible life.

Dr. Nils Daniel Forkert

Dr. Nils Daniel Forkert is an Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology & Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.

Dr. Forkert’s current research focuses on developing and evaluating new image processing methods, algorithms and software tools for the analysis of medical images.  With a background in computer science, medical physics and medical image processing, Dr. Forkert and his graduate student are approaching Parkinson disease from a technical perspective, by applying his formidable knowledge to research that looks at utilizing image-based biomarkers to differentiate patients with idiopathic Parkinson syndromes from those with atypical Parkinson syndromes.

His research involves using a large variety of imaging modalities that reflect different physiological parameters and combining them to achieve a higher disease classification accuracy.  With a wide-range of neurological disease that can present in similar ways — Parkinson disease, Multiple System Atrophy, Supranuclear Palsy, parkinsonism, etc — the ability to better classify patients means a more tailored approach to treatment for the patient.  Dr. Forkert’s research aims to help physicians better classify a patient’s disease, especially in the early stages.