The NETP Presents the Fiscal Year 2019 Early-Investigator Research Award Recipients

Posted January 12, 2021

Dr. Albert Davis, M.D., Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis
Dr. Albert Davis Dr. Albert Davis

A clinician with prior accomplishments in the field of Parkinson’s disease (PD), Dr. Albert Davis is looking specifically at alpha-synuclein aggregation four protein (APOE4) regulation and toxicity in cortical and limbic regions of murine brain model systems. His goal is to bring disease-modifying treatments to the clinic to improve the quality of life of PD patients and caregivers. Dr. Davis’s study, supported by the Early-Investigator Research Award, seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in PD dementia by observing whether the APOE genotype affects alpha-synuclein spreading in the neocortical and limbic regions, ultimately contributing to deficits in cognitive behavior and disruption to brain network connectivity. This study will potentially lead to a better understanding of genetic risk factors for PD dementia and their contribution to neuronal dysfunction. 

Public and Technical Abstracts: Apolipoprotein E Regulation of Alpha-Synuclein Spreading and Functional Connectivity in Parkinson's Disease Dementia

Dr. Miriam Rafferty, DPT, Ph.D., Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Northwestern University
Dr. Miriam Rafferty Dr. Miriam Rafferty

Dr. Miriam Rafferty aims to accelerate research supporting exercise and rehabilitation for individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and its integration into clinical settings. Early in her research career, Dr. Rafferty experienced first-hand the often-frustrating lag between research and clinical practice. With support from this Early-Investigator Research Award, she will focus on translating exercise research and technology into physical therapy practice by studying different ways to integrate digital health technology and behavioral interventions to improve exercise monitoring and maintenance. Dr. Rafferty’s proposed project, if successful, will provide valuable insight into how PD communities can employ innovative technologies in the most efficient way possible. 

Public and Technical Abstracts: Accelerating Physical Therapy Exercise Monitoring: Facilitators, Fidelity, and Fitness

Dr. Laura Ibanez, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL)
Dr. Laura Ibanez Dr. Laura Ibanez

Dr. Laura Ibanez is an Assistant Professor at the WUSTL School of Medicine, planning to pursue a career in the field of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and to develop translational research that focuses on constructing new, minimally invasive tools that quickly and accurately diagnose neurodegenerative diseases. She is interested in how genetics can be exploited via high-throughput technologies and bioinformatics to improve the early management of patients with neurodegenerative diseases. With the help of an Early-Investigator Research Award, Dr. Ibanez hopes to use these resources to develop a predictive model for PD that may lead to a tool for its early diagnosis and prognosis. 

Public and Technical Abstracts: Plasma Cell-Free RNA as Noninvasive Biomarker for Parkinson's Disease

Dr. Laurie Sanders, Ph.D., Duke University
Dr. Laurie Sanders Dr. Laurie Sanders

Dr. Laurie Sanders aims to develop and maintain a research program at the forefront of Parkinson’s disease (PD) research. Key to achieving this is the integration of novel and cutting-edge concepts and methods into her work in the diverse setting of neurodegeneration, DNA repair, and mitochondrial function. Supported by an Early-Investigator Research Award, Dr. Sanders is working on generating a mouse model that epitomizes PD pathology in humans by exploiting the novel role of nitric oxide synthase signaling in regulating leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 dependent neurodegeneration. This research will begin to define the relationship between known environmental and genetic risk factors in underlying PD mechanisms. 

Public and Technical Abstracts: Interactions Between the Immune System, Genetics, and Environmental Mitochondrial Toxicants in Models of Parkinson's Disease

Dr. Mallory Hacker, Ph.D., M.S.C.I., Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Dr. Mallory Hacker Dr. Mallory Hacker

Dr. Mallory Hacker aims to become an independent scientist investigating new therapies for early-stage Parkinson’s disease (PD) by becoming proficient in objective PD measurements and gaining the skills needed to lead multidisciplinary clinical trial teams. With the Early-Investigator Research Award, Dr. Hacker’s study aims to fill a critical gap in study design knowledge by testing whether new brain scans and wearable movement trackers should be added to PD studies that focus on treatments to slow disease progression. If successful, Dr. Hacker’s project will offer the PD community insight into the integration of neuroimaging and digital health technologies by utilizing novel data from positron emission tomography scans and wearable movement trackers. The results of this study will provide valuable information to patients, caregivers, and physicians, on whether deep brain stimulation is an appropriate therapy for early-stage PD. 

Public and Technical Abstracts: Incorporating Objective Assessments in Clinical Trials Testing Disease Modification in Early-Stage Parkinson's Disease

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