Project 3
Plasma Biomarkers and Parkinsonism in Welders
Jing Zhang, Director

The relevance of metal-mediated parkisonism (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 we utilize are state-of-the-art proteomics that are currently actively employed in our laboratory in revealing biomarkers specific to iPD in both human brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Three specific aims are designed for this project: 1) to differentiate PS in the plasma samples of welders from those of iPD using brain/CSF specific marker 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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