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NINDS Holds Parkinson's Disease Meeting

The first meeting of the NINDS Parkinson's disease implementation committee was held recently at the Neuroscience Center in Rockville. Its purpose is to advise the institute on research programs and on how best to coordinate implementation of a research agenda published last March.

Discussion focused on such topics as medical and surgical therapeutics research, genetic epidemiology and gene expression and analysis, stem cell research, and attracting researchers to Parkinson's disease.

The committee urged NINDS to place a high priority on phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials of potentially useful drugs. Key needs are to identify compounds for clinical trials and to foster more effective interactions with industry in order to obtain compounds. NINDS will convene a workshop that will bring together government, academic and industry researchers to work toward identifying compounds and appropriate funding mechanisms. One area of special concern and opportunity is the non-motor aspects of Parkinson's disease, including depression, cognitive problems, sleep problems and autonomic disturbances.

The committee also emphasized the importance of genetics research for understanding Parkinson's disease. This includes the search for new genes, following leads generated by the known Parkinson's related genes, and using the emerging tools for gene expression analysis. One crucial aspect of this, which also relates to environmental research, is to continue work on a web-based Parkinson's Disease Patient and Family Registry.

Stem cell research is also crucial for Parkinson's disease. Now that the NIH Guidelines for Using Human Pluripotent Stem Cells in Research are in place, there are proposals coming in for preclinical stem cell therapeutic tests in animal models, which will be essential before studies are attempted in people. NINDS will carefully monitor the need for stem cell repositories and training in stem cell technology, and potential problems related to the evaluation of proposals in this rapidly developing area.

A comprehensive, international congress on Parkinson's disease in the fall of 2001, similar in scope to the recent World Congress for Alzheimer's Disease, is also being considered.

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