Parkinson's Disease Research at NorthShore Strives to Lead to Better Patient Outcomes

Friday, April 11, 2014 1:11 PM

As part of National Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, Demetrius Maraganore, MD, Chairman of Neurology at NorthShore, shared some of the findings of his ongoing research into the genetic factors that influence Parkinson’s disease progression and outcomes. He also tells us why research like this is so important for Parkinson’s disease patients and their families: 

Why is funding for and research into Parkinson’s disease so important? 
It’s important because the treatments that we have available don’t prevent Parkinson’s disease (PD) or slow or halt its progression.  PD is characterized by progressive motor and cognitive impairment.  PD patients have a seven-fold increased risk of nursing home placement and a two-fold increased risk of death.  The annual cost of PD in the U.S. exceeds $23 billion. Presently 2% of people will develop PD during their lifetime, and the prevalence of PD is expected to double by 2030. The cumulative burden of PD to society is and will be staggering.  Our patients and their families deserve methods to predict, prevent and halt PD and those will only come through research.

How long have you been conducting research into Parkinson’s disease?  
My research in Parkinson’s disease (PD) started in 1989, when I was an honorary clinical and research fellow to the late Professor C. David Marsden at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, England.  Dr. Marsden was the founder of the international Movement Disorders Society and its official journal, Movement Disorders.  His associate, Professor Anita Harding, was a pioneer in the field of neurogenetics.  Together, we launched the first genetic studies of Parkinson’s disease.  

That has remained the focus of my research, including for 20 years on the faculty of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and in the four years that I have been Chairman of Neurology at NorthShore. While my research at Mayo focused on identifying genetic factors that contribute to the cause of PD, my research at NorthShore has focused on understanding how those genetic factors influence disease progression and outcomes.  Our research aims to develop methods to predict outcomes in PD, and to use that information to improve neurological health.

Why have you focused the bulk of your career on the study and treatment of Parkinson’s?  
As a clinician, it’s very gratifying that there are many treatments that we can employ in the first many years to reduce the burden of the disease on patients and families.  However, I recognize that the benefits of the existing treatments wane with time, and I’m driven by the sense of urgency to identify the factors that contribute to the progression of Parkinson's disease. Our goal is to target those factors so that every individual patient can have the best possible outcome. 

For more information on the NorthShore Neurological Institute and the research being done at NorthShore, click here. 

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