Michael J. Fox Foundation Funds Search for Parkinson’s Urine Biomarkers

José Lopes, PhD avatar

by José Lopes, PhD |

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) is funding work at Tymora Analytical Operations that screens for protein biomarkers in urine to help detect the neurodegenerative disease earlier.

Tymora, a research and development laboratory company affiliated with Purdue University, uses the EVtrap approach, or Extracellular Vesicles Total Recovery and Purification. This approach analyzes urine samples to find disease biomarkers such as proteins and their versions known as phosphoproteins — proteins that have phosphate groups attached.

More than 100 samples provided by MJFF will be analyzed to look for phosphoproteins found in people with Parkinson’s.

“This award will support our analysis work to find new urine biomarkers, which can lead to early Parkinson’s disease diagnoses and treatments,” Anton Iliuk, PhD, Tymora’s chief technology officer, said in a press release written by Chris Adam.

Iliuk noted that the lack of specific tests to identify Parkinson’s often leads to reviews of medical histories and to neurological and physical tests that can be inconclusive. “Our approach,” he said, “uses a simple urine test, often already performed during regular exams.”

Parkinson’s is typically diagnosed at late stages, when patients are already experiencing symptoms. That reduces treatment effectiveness.

“Diagnosing Parkinson’s at an early stage with our method would give doctors a greater opportunity to successfully treat the condition,” Iliuk said.

According to Tymora, the technology enables the identification of more than 1,200 unique proteins from only 0.2mL of urine. It also allows the identification of up to 1,000 unique phosphoproteins from 10mL of urine, as described in a 2018 study. The team at Tymora previously had demonstrated the feasibility of high-throughput identification of phosphoproteins in tiny vesicles — called exosomes — found in plasma, which contain unique cargo if released by diseased cells.

EVtrap, says Tymora, is the optimal technique to develop urine-derived exosome phosphoproteins for more accurate disease profiling and better treatments.

Most of the company’s technology was developed at Purdue by W. Andy Tao, PhD, Tymora’s chief scientific officer. Tao is a professor of biochemistry at Purdue’s College of Agriculture and received the 2017 Outstanding Commercialization Award for Purdue faculty.

The EVtrap technology aligns with the university’s Giant Leaps celebration of its global advancements in health, which is part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary.