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Superfund Research Program

Plasma Biomarkers for Parkinsonism in Welders

Project Leader: Jing Zhang
Grant Number: P42ES004696
Funding Period: 2009-2015
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2009-2015)

Environmental exposure to metals, including manganese, is an important risk factor for the development of parkinsonism (PS) in workers of welding or related industries. However, the relevance of metal-mediated PS to idiopathic Parkinson's disease (iPD) remains to be characterized. Clinically, differential diagnosis between metal-related PS and iPD is difficult, even in the best hands. This project is focused on discovering plasma biochemical markers unique to welders for differential diagnosis of various PS, monitoring PS progression, and identification of the population at risk for developing disabling PS. The techniques to be utilized are state-of-the-art proteomics that are actively employed currently in Dr. Zhang’s laboratory in revealing biomarkers specific to iPD in both human brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Three objectives are designed for this project:

  1. to differentiate PS in the plasma samples of welders from those of iPD using brain/CSF specific markers identified in iPD patients,
  2. to develop plasma biomarkers unique to PS progression as well as early stages in welders using targeted and nonbiased quantitative proteomics, and
  3. to confirm and validate PS plasma biomarkers in welders, which is a key process of biomarker discovery.

The significance of this investigation includes:

  1. identification of markers unique to PS, both in symptomatic welders and those at risk for developing PS, will help diagnose and monitor these patients as well as make it possible to remove the subjects at risk from the environment, thereby preventing them from developing PS;
  2. identification of protein markers unique to PS secondary to metal exposure likely suggests novel pathogenesis and therapeutic targets for the disease process; and
  3. PS markers, if identified, can be widely utilized, given that plasma-based assays can be readily implemented in a clinical setting, even in developing countries or in remote areas of developed countries.
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