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Biomarkers of Risk of Parkinson Disease

See All Parkinson's Disease Trials

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health, is looking for individuals to participate in clinical studies. Participating in clinical trials allows you to play an active role in research on the nature and causes of many disorders of the brain and nervous system, and to possibly help physician-scientists develop future treatments. The information below is designed to help you quickly learn about actively recruiting research studies for which you or someone you know may be eligible.


This two-part research study ( will determine if people with risk factors for Parkinson's disease (PD) have biomarkers for the disease, and if those with PD biomarkers actually develop the disease later in life. Biomarkers are objective ways to measure a disease process. They also may provide a means to track progression of the disease and to determine if new treatments are effective.

Participants in the study include adults who have particular risk factors for developing PD such as a strong family history of the disease, a known genetic abnormality associated with PD, loss of a sense of smell (which is very common in PD), a particular type of sleep disorder called REM behavior disorder, or persistent, consistent orthostatic hypotension (a fall in blood pressure when standing up).  Individuals who do not have PD risk factors also are eligible to participate in the study's "control group."

PD, a progressive disease of the nervous system, results from loss of a chemical called dopamine in a particular pathway of the brain.  Outside the brain there is loss of a closely-related chemical, norepinephrine, in nerves going to the heart.  Dopamine and norepinephrine are members of a small family of chemical messengers called catecholamines. 

The first part of this study will look for a loss of nerves and nerve cells that use catecholamines.  Scientists will use biomarkers of loss of catecholamines as the main indicators of the disease process.  People with PD typically have a loss of nerves and nerve cells that use catecholamines. 

In the second part of the study, scientists will determine if people who have abnormal PD biomarkers actually develop the disease later in life, during several years of follow-up.

Eligibility Criteria:

Healthy volunteers and people who have certain risk factors for developing PD who are between 18 and 70 years of age may be eligible for this study. People with the following risk factors are included:

  • Family history of PD
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Fall in blood pressure when standing up
  • REM behavior disorder (a type of sleep disturbance)

Study Design: 

Observational; Time Perspective:  Prospective

Study Locations: 

Bethesda, Maryland

For more information and more detailed Eligibility Criteria:

Contact:  Janna Gelsomino, RN, at

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Last Reviewed February 1, 2016