Investigating the Role of Lipids in Parkinson’s

Over the next three years the Parkinson’s Foundation will invest more than $50 million to Parkinson’s disease (PD) research and clinical care. At the heart of our research initiatives are scientists and researchers who have received Foundation awards to improve our understanding of Parkinson’s, which will ultimately lead us to a cure.

Much of our understanding of Parkinson’s disease comes from genetic studies. The most common genetic changes linked to Parkinson’s occur in the GBA gene. The role of GBA in cells is to break down complex lipids in the cell’s “recycling bin,” the lysosome.

Roy N. Alcalay, MD, MS,  is a Stanley Fahn Junior Faculty Awardee at Columbia University Medical Center who received a Parkinson’s Foundation grant to identify the parts of lipid metabolism that are most affected by Parkinson’s and to find potential drug targets to correct them. With cutting-edge technology, Dr. Alcalay’s research will measure 520 lipids in blood samples from people with Parkinson’s and from people without the disease. In people who carry Parkinson’s-related mutations in the GBA or alpha-synuclein genes, we will test if altered lipid levels are linked to Parkinson’s diagnosis

Dr. Alcalay’s research will also analyze 600 people with Parkinson’s and 400 without the disease, testing for genetic changes in 32 genes involved with lipid metabolism. His team will look at the relationship between lipid levels and the activities of lysosome enzymes, also assessing genetic changes in the enzymes’ genes. Our hope is that Dr. Alcalay’s and his team can identify novel drug targets and biomarkers for Parkinson’s that will improve diagnosis and treatment of the disease.


The Parkinson's Foundation Stanley Fahn Junior Faculty Award helps ensure promising early career scientists stay in the PD research field. This award provides junior investigators the support they need to develop their own independent funding source.

What's Next: Reporting Our Findings

Parkinson’s Foundation research awards fund Parkinson’s studies than can span up to three years. Scientists submit yearly progress reports to the Parkinson’s Foundation, and we report findings once the studies have concluded. Stay up to date with our latest research findings at

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