PPMI Data Available: RNA Seq

by Bradford Casey, Ph.D.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation

The Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) includes a broad and comprehensive panel of measurements designed to improve our understanding of Parkinson’s disease (PD). One approach is analysis of the genome, the full complement of DNA present within the cells of the body. DNA is often considered the master blueprint that determines the structure of each of the proteins needed by individual cells. The individual plans for these proteins are referred to as “genes”, and represent the individual chapters of the genetic library. However, different cells require different amounts of these individual proteins as they grow and respond to their environment. DNA templates are used to create RNA transcripts for these genes to create the required proteins. In addition to understanding the role of variation within these genes, understanding their unique pattern and timeline of expression is important in understanding what goes awry in PD.

To measure these changes, researchers harness similar technology to that used in genomic sequencing, which provides a snapshot of the gene expression levels of every gene within the cell. This technique is referred to as whole-genome transcriptomic analysis or “RNA-Seq”.  As part of PPMI, researchers are comparing the levels of key genes with known significance to PD to observe how they change over time. This approach also allows for undirected discovery of potentially significant genes which may have been previously overlooked. This, combined with DNA sequencing and clinical data from PPMI subjects, will be combined and analyzed to develop a more comprehensive understanding of how genomic and transcriptomic changes influence the development and progression of PD and other diseases.

If you are a qualified researcher, you may obtain access to all PPMI clinical, imaging, and biomarker data, including the RNA-Seq data mentioned above, through the data request page.