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Fox Grant

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is giving a University of Alabama biological sciences professor a $145,000 grant to study Parkinson's disease.

The grant was awarded to Doctor Guy Caldwell, an assistant professor in UA's College of Arts and Sciences. His research involves the use of a transplanted, microscopic worm, known as C. elegans. Caldwell said approximately 50 percent of all human hereditary diseases, including Parkinson's disease, have been linked to genetic compounds found in C. elegans.

The actor publicly announced in 1998 that he had Parkinson's, a disease marked by tremors, stiffness and imbalance. Since 2000, Fox's foundation has become a major source of research money, funding more than $17 million in grants.

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Parkinson's Disease

  • Parkinson's disease (PD) is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects as many as one million Americans.

  • Because it is not contagious and does not have to be reported by physicians, the incidence of the disease is often underestimated.

  • PD may appear at any age, but it is uncommon in people younger than 30, and the risk of developing it increases with age.

  • It occurs in all parts of the world, and men are affected slightly more often than women.

Symptoms

  • Rigidity is an increased tone or stiffness in the muscles.

  • Tremor is the symptom the public most often identifies with PD, but in fact, up to 25 percent of patients experience very slight tremor or none at all.

  • Bradykinesia means slowness of movement. This symptom is characterized by a delay in initiating movements, caused by the brain's slowness in transmitting the necessary instructions to the appropriate parts of the body.

  • Poor balance tends to affect people with PD. This is particularly true when they move abruptly, causing a sudden change in the position of their bodies.

  • Walking problems commonly include a decreased or non-existent arm swing; short, shuffling steps (festination); difficulty in negotiating turns; and sudden freezing spells (inability to take the next step).

Cause

  • The actual cause of PD is not known. Although a defective gene was recently found in a few families with extraordinarily high incidences of PD, most researchers believe that in the vast majority of cases, genetic factors alone are not responsible for causing the disease.

  • It is suspected that Parkinson's usually results from the combination of a genetic predisposition and an as yet unidentified environmental trigger.

Source: www.pdf.org (Parkinson's Disease Foundation) contributed to this report.


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