Modifying stem cells to treat Parkinson’s (Pedaling for Parkinson’s Research Grant Announced; Event Opens for 2021)

Photo of riders participating in Pedaling for Parkinson's
Riders participating in Pedaling for Parkinson’s, an event that raises funds to support Parkinson Canada Research Program Grants.

Wherever you are in Canada, suffice it to say it has been a long winter with many of us looking forward to the warm weather and hopes of connectivity that the new season offers. For annual riders in Pedaling for Parkinson’s, the event offers the opportunity to enjoy both. This year, that’s what organizers of the Prince Edward County edition of the ride are hoping for.

After focusing on self-supported rides in 2020, the team is planning to convene in Milford, Ontario from August 20-22 as dictated by the public health context this summer. Details on the Prince Edward County ride are available now at www.pedalingforparkinsons.ca.

Last year, while the pandemic forced a change of plans the event still reached its primary goal: raising funds to support research. Since the ride was founded in 2011 in Parry Sound by Peter Istvan and David Newall it has developed a long history of raising funds to support Parkinson Canada Research Program Grants. Thanks to effective event coordination during an unprecedented year and the commitment of the riders and donors made 2020 no different.

Proceeds from last year’s ride have been committed to fund Dr. Tiago Cardoso’s project investigating efficient brain repair using cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s. The two-year Basic Research Fellowship is funded at $80,000 with 100% of that amount coming from rider fundraising.

Stem cells have long been touted as a possible treatment for Parkinson’s. At Laval University, Dr. Cardoso is testing ways to improve stem cells before they could be transplanted in people with Parkinson’s.

Working in petri dishes, Dr. Cardoso is using cultured stem cells derived from the skin of donors to see if he can transform them into these dopamine-producing neurons. He’s using genetic engineering techniques to make the stem cells more prone to survive transplantation and more efficient at connecting to other damaged areas of the brain to rewire it. If Cardoso’s work is successful, it would prepare the way for emerging treatments for Parkinson’s using these re-engineered, transplanted stem cells.

Dr. Tiago Cardoso, who is investigating a new therapy treatment for Parkinson’s

According to Cardaso, Parkinson Canada and therefore riders and donors to Pedaling for Parkinson’s play a unique role in the Canadian research landscape because it bridges research and caring for people with the disease. 

“Being associated with a foundation that does such a great job at caring for people with Parkinson’s and with research is great,” he said. 

His project complements Parkinson Canada’s philosophy because it marries fundamental research with a promising application. He also points out that neurodegenerative diseases take a terrible toll on people’s lives and on the healthcare system. 

“It’s important that we help fund and find new therapies, if not to cure Parkinson’s disease, to provide therapies that provide a better life for those people and less stress to their families,” he said.  “If we want new therapies and new benefits, it’s important to fund the agencies that we think are doing a good job and helping good projects.” Visit Parkinson.ca to find out specifics on Dr. Cardoso’s research; the details on other funded grants in the current cycle; and find out more on how you can get involved in Pedaling for Parkinson’s at www.pedalingforparkinsons.ca.

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