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Thursday October 19, 2006

Michael J. Fox Foundation Launches Parkinson’s Genetics Database PDGene

10/12/2006(U.S. News Wire) - The Michael J. Fox Foundation announced that it has collaborated with Dr. Lars Bertram of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and with The Alzheimer Research Forum (AlzForum) to create PDGene ( http://www.pdgene.org ), an online inventory of studies on genes implicated in Parkinson’s disease.

"Given the rapid pace of genetic discovery and the previous lack of a centralized information source for these discoveries, the development of PDGene is an essential step in raising awareness to translate genetic discoveries into treatments," said Deborah W. Brooks, the Foundation’s president and CEO. "We are confident that PDGene will help keep the field informed and unify future steps toward improved therapies that will significantly impact patients’ lives."

The first tool of its kind for Parkinson’s, PDGene is a nod to the field’s need for a more refined understanding of possible genetic contributions to Parkinson’s disease risk. To date, only a handful of genes have been identified that are strongly linked to rare hereditary forms of Parkinson’s disease. For the vast majority of Parkinson’s cases, however, recent work indicates that there is no single shared genetic ’smoking gun.’ More likely, multiple gene variants, as well as environmental factors, may interact to affect an individual’s risk of developing the disease. The combination of factors may also differ from group to group, further complicating attempts to understand the disease and making it difficult to replicate genetic findings from one study to the next.

PDGene is a centralized and regularly updated web portal for scientists, who will now find in one place information about any gene that previous research has shown may play a role in Parkinson’s. Information available in PDGene includes a list of all published papers that looked for a link between a gene and PD (whether supportive or not); basic information about each study; and an overall determination of how strong the evidence is for a gene’s link to PD, based on pooled results from the published studies. Scientists will also be able to submit comments about each study. Content decisions will be made by Dr. Bertram’s team at MGH with oversight from a Scientific Advisory Board consisting of PD researchers and geneticists, including representation from The Michael J. Fox Foundation. To ensure the database’s objectivity, only those studies published in peer- reviewed journals will be considered for inclusion in the database. Papers also must be available in English.

"I am pleased to be working alongside The Michael J. Fox Foundation and The Alzheimer Research Forum to develop such an important tool for the Parkinson’s community," said Dr. Bertram, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. "The role of genetics in Parkinson’s is complex and there is a crucial need for shared tools and resources such as PDGene."

PDGene models an existing database called AlzGene, also created by Dr. Bertram and his group in collaboration with The Alzheimer Research Forum. Alzforum is dedicated to understanding Alzheimer’s by reporting on the latest scientific findings, from basic research to clinical trials, and maintaining public databases of essential research data.

"We are delighted to work with The Michael J. Fox Foundation and Dr. Bertram on PDGene," said June Kinoshita, AlzForum’s executive editor.

"We hope that our collaboration on this project will help foster greater interaction among researchers who are studying Parkinson’s, as it has done for those researchers studying Alzheimer’s."

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