PORTLAND -- Many people who have Parkinson's disease also lose their sense of smell even before the onset of the motor symptoms of Parkinson's. A new study at Oregon Health & Science University is exploring this problem, called hyposmia.
OHSU is one of 24 sites around the world that are part of the $55 million Parkinson's study sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
Researchers are looking at this and other risk factors, in their ongoing quest to develop therapies that could slow or stop the disease progression. They will also explore whether testing for a reduced sense of smell might be combined with other measures to identify people who may be at risk for developing the disease.
During the last three years, the OHSU study has been working to identify biological markers of Parkinson's disease progression. This latest phase will be aimed at finding ways to detect the disease before the motor symptoms of Parkinson's – tremors, slowness of movement and rigidity – begin.
Other potential risk factors being studied include rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder and a mutation found by genetic testing.
"Understanding risk factors for Parkinson's disease may allow us to develop therapies to prevent the onset of motor symptoms in future generations of Parkinson's disease patients," said Penelope Hogarth, M.D., an associate professor of neurology and genetics at OHSU. "We are proud to be a part of this innovative research and are looking to the local community for volunteers over the age of 60 to join us in the effort."
Portland-area residents who are interested in the research can become one of the 10,000 individuals needed to complete a brief online or paper survey about their sense of smell. People over the age of 60 who do not have Parkinson's disease are needed to participate. Most survey respondents will be sent a scratch-and-sniff smell test and brief questionnaire in the mail to be completed at home. Some individuals may also be asked if they are willing to undergo more extensive testing at OHSU.
Anyone interested in taking part in the study can go to the Parkinson's research web site, call 1-877-525-PPMI (7764), or contact OHSU study coordinators Alicia Portillo and Art Lenahan at 503-494-1382.