NIH Launches Collaborative Effort to Find Parkinson’s Biomarkers
A new initiative aims to accelerate the search
for biomarkers—changes in the body that can
be used to predict, diagnose or monitor a disease—
in Parkinson’s disease, in part by improving
collaboration among researchers and helping
patients get involved in clinical studies.
A lack of biomarkers for Parkinson’s has been
a major challenge for developing better treatments.
The Parkinson’s Disease Biomarkers
Program (PDBP) supports efforts to invent new
technologies and analysis tools for biomarker
discovery, to identify and validate biomarkers
in patients and to share biomarker data and
resources across the Parkinson’s community.
The program is being launched by NINDS.
Biomarkers can include changes in body chemistry
or physiology, in genes and how they are
regulated and even subtle changes in a person’s
behavior. For example, certain antibodies
in the blood can be biomarkers for different
types of infection. For Parkinson’s, there
are no proven biomarkers.
The range of potential biomarkers for Parkinson’s
is vast and there have been promising
leads. Some researchers are investigating the
use of non-invasive imaging to detect changes
in brain function or biochemistry. Several
studies have tentatively linked the disease
with changes in proteins or other molecules in
blood, urine or in the cerebrospinal fluid that
bathes the brain and spinal cord. PDBP is an
initiative to fund and coordinate multiple biomarker
H1N1 Flu Shots Found Safe for Pregnant Women
|Norwegian pregnant women who received a vaccine against the
2009 H1N1 influenza virus showed no increased risk of pregnancy
loss, while pregnant women who experienced influenza
during pregnancy had an increased risk of miscarriages and
stillbirths, a study has found.
Norwegian pregnant women who received a
vaccine against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus
showed no increased risk of pregnancy loss,
while pregnant women who experienced influenza
during pregnancy had an increased risk of
miscarriages and stillbirths, a study has found.
The study suggests that influenza infection may
increase the risk of fetal loss.
Scientists at NIEHS and the Norwegian Institute
of Public Health (NIPH) published their
findings online Jan. 17 in the New England Journal
of Medicine. The
research was conducted
H1N1 influenza pandemic
that took place
between spring 2009
and fall 2010. Norwegian
officials had urged
pregnant women to
be vaccinated. However,
of pregnancy losses
after flu shots caused
mothers to forgo vaccination.
First author Dr. Siri
Haberg of NIPH and
colleagues initiated the study to help address the question of vaccine safety by
taking advantage of Norway’s excellent registries and medical records system.
NIEHS researcher and co-author Dr. Allen Wilcox said NIPH researchers combined
data from obstetrical visits, birth records and vaccination registries to
investigate whether the influenza vaccination posed a risk to pregnancy. The
study found that influenza infection increased the risk of fetal loss by up to twofold.
Influenza vaccination did not increase the risk of loss. Instead, the results
suggest that vaccination reduces the risk of fetal loss.
Study Documents that Some Children Lose Autism Diagnosis
Some children who are accurately diagnosed in early childhood with autism lose
the symptoms and the diagnosis as they grow older, an NIH-supported study
has confirmed. The research team made the finding by carefully documenting
a prior diagnosis of autism in a small group of school-age children and young
adults with no current symptoms of the disorder.
The report is the first of a series that will probe more deeply into the nature of
the change in these children’s status. Having been diagnosed at one time with an
autism spectrum disorder, these young people now appear to be on par with typically
developing peers. The study team is continuing to analyze data on changes in
brain function in these children and whether they have subtle residual social deficits.
The team is also reviewing records on the types of interventions the children
received and to what extent they may have played a role in the transition.
“Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest
that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes,” said NIMH director
Dr. Thomas Insel. “For an individual child, the outcome may be knowable only
with time and after some years of intervention. Subsequent reports from this
study should tell us more about the nature of autism and the role of therapy and
other factors in the long-term outcome for these children.”
The study, led by Dr. Deborah Fein at the University of Connecticut, Storrs,
recruited 34 optimal outcome children who had received a diagnosis of autism
in early life and were now reportedly functioning no differently than their mainstream
peers.—compiled by Carla Garnett