Parkinson's disease is an inexorably progressive disorder of unknown cause in which neurons of the substantial nigra progressively degenerate resulting in ever-greater degrees of brain dopamine deficiency. While a number of treatments have been developed that improve the neurochemical deficit, no treatment has been demonstrated to ameliorate the neuronal deterioration. Such a neuroprotective effect is highly desirable because if this could be achieved, a significant delay in clinical deterioration of patients could be realized. The proposal outlined here aims to establish a Clinical Center for neuroprotective research at UT Southwestern Medical Center which will cooperate with up to 42 other such centers around the country in the development and execution of a large-scale clinical trial to test one or more potentially neuroprotective agents for Parkinson's disease. The Clinical Center for Movement Disorders at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX is well suited to becoming such a Clinical Center. It is the primary academic referral center for North Texas and its two staff neurologists are experienced in the design, conduct, and reporting of clinical trials in Parkinson's disease. Once the Clinical Centers are designated, a series of pilot studies will be conducted first to identify the most promising agent or agents. Subsequently, a large trial involving several thousand patients will be developed and conducted to establish whether the chosen agent is actually capable of slowing down the progression of this disease. By studying such a large number of patients under rigorously blinded and controlled conditions, it should be possible to identify even a small beneficial effect on disease progression which would nevertheless be very important, not only for the implications on retarding disease progression, but also because observing such an effect might yield insights into the underlying pathogenesis of this common and disabling disease.
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