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University Of Utah Researchers Awarded $3 Million To Study Effect Of Exercise On Parkinson's Disease

Bill Branson
The National Institute of Health awarded Dibble's research group $3 million to study the effects of exercise on the progression of Parkinson's Disease.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, but for mice with induced Parkinson’s, exercise seems to slow the progression of the neurodegenerative disease, and surveys suggest something similar could be happening with humans. A research group at University of Utah is looking into this kind of treatment with a grant for controlled experiments.

“Historically there’s been concerns with Parkinson’s Disease that maybe people should not be physically active,” said Dr. Lee Dibble, a professor in the department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training at University of Utah. He was recently awarded a grant to study how exercise affects the progression of Parkinson’s.

“Sometimes physicians told them to go sit down, don’t do anything," he said. "The reality is that just made those people worse. There appears, by animal research, that there is some worsening of the neurologic degeneration that might occur with the disorder."

Studies with mice and surveys with humans suggest that exercise might slow the progression of the disease. But Dibble wants to know if effects in the lab translate to effects at home, where scientists aren’t able to control all the confounding factors.

“We’re hoping to recruit approximately 250 people with Parkinson’s Disease and ask them to exercise three times per week over the course of 12 months. We’re going to ask these individuals to do that exercise at home. We’ll be monitoring progression of disease severity, upper extremity function, cognition and other factors that are related to the disease,” Dibble said.

His research group was awarded a $3 million grant to be spent over five years studying exercise and Parkinson’s. Dibble says that the most exciting thing about the planned research is its potential effect on Parkinson’s patients.

“Right now we don’t have any treatments that we know alter the course of the disease to any measurable effect. If we were able to provide some degree of delaying the progression of severity, we could have a dramatic effect on people’s quality of life,” Dibble said.