Progress of basic research in Parkinson’s disease in China: data mini-review from the National Natural Science Foundation
© Cao et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Received: 17 June 2013
Accepted: 29 August 2013
Published: 30 August 2013
This review is to analyze the role of National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) on the development of basic research of Parkinson’s disease from 1990 to 2012. Data on the total number of projects and funding of NSFC allocated to Parkinson’s disease, as well as hotspots in western countries, papers published, awards, personnel training, subject construction were collected, and the role of NSFC on other sources of funding was evaluated. Over the past 23 years, a full range of continuous funding from NSFC has led to fruitful results and a strong impetus to the progress of basic research of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disease observed in the elderly. The latest epidemiological survey shows the total prevalence of PD to be about 160/100,000, but it is above 1.7% among individuals over the age of 65. In China, there currently over 2 million PD patients, and this number continues to increase as the population ages [1, 2]. Due to its high prevalence, high rate of disability, and chronic disease course, PD has become a matter of scientific concern as well as a social problem in the fields of demography and health. The application codes for PD from National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) are H0912 (neurodegeneration, neuroregeneration, and related diseases) and H0904 (movement regulation and movement disorders). Here 137 PD-related projects that addressed these issues over the past 23 years (1990–2012) were found in the NSFC database and analyzed. PD projects funded by the E.U. and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) were also considered for comparison purposes. To perform a comprehensive analysis on funding strategies and hotspots of NSFC in the field of PD, priority PD projects performed over the past 23 years are reviewed regarding their funding and results, and potential problems are also discussed.
Hotspots in NIH and E.U.-funded studies of PD
PD is the most common neurodegenerative disease in Europe and the United States, and it has received a great deal of attention in Western countries. In the U.S., data from 2003–2005 show that funding for PD-related research added up to more than one billion U.S. dollars, including investment from private industry. Because of this huge financial investment, more than ten types of clinical drugs for the treatment of PD have been released in the past 20 years. These include pramipexole, ropinirole, tolcapone, entacapone, apomorphine, rasagiline, selegiline, carbidopa/levodopa/entacapone, selegiline sublingual, and rotigotine. In 2007, worldwide rankings in PD investment were as follows: North America accounted for 52% (47% from the United States, 5% from Canada), the E.U. accounted for 38% (14% from the U.K. and 24% from other countries), and Japan accounted for 5%. The total amount of PD investment in China is difficult to estimate because data are scattered across the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Health, NSFC, and health research institutions at different local levels. However, it is clear that, compared to Europe and the United States, investment in PD-related scientific research in China is still limited .
Funding information was retrieved from the NIH website (http://report.nih.gov/). Data showed that, in 2011, NIH funded a total of about 620 projects on PD research, amounting to 151 million U.S. dollars. Funded hotspots included a large number of prospective clinical trials and studies on new drug development, genetic background studies based on a variety of genes, proteins, signaling pathways, and mitochondrial dysfunction, deep brain stimulation (DBS) studies based on new technologies, studies on environmental risk factors and early diagnosis of PD, and studies on cognitive dysfunction in PD patients. During the execution of Research Framework-program 7 (http://cordis.europa.eu/) (2007–2013), E.U. member states and the European Commission invested in a total of about 120 PD research projects, and the research hotspots concentrated in PD related drug development and clinical trials, cell transplantation for treatment of PD, gene therapy of PD, the relationship between lysosomal dysfunction and the pathogenesis of PD, and the relationship between neuroimmunology and PD.
Brief analysis of NSFC funding of PD-related research projects (1990–2012)
Funding hotspots and fields
Key projects in PD research
Key projects in PD research
Shanghai Jiaotong University
Biological markers for early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and gene-targeted therapy
Mechanisms and prevention of selective aggregation of iron in substantia nigra and its specific damage to dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease
The Fourth Military Medical University
Mechanisms underlying synchronous oscillation and stochastic resonance of abnormal symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Sun Yat-sen University
Mechanisms underlying GSK-3alpha/beta regulation and its use as a target for the treatment of Parkinson's disease
Outcomes of funded projects
Suggestions and prospects
By reviewing patterns of funding in the field of PD research in China over the past, there were found to be relatively few studies on the surgical treatment of PD. Although, over the past several decades, stereotactic techniques have undergone rapid development, and DBS technology is currently being perfected, there are still a large number of clinical issues that need to be resolved with basic research. More neurosurgeons may apply for studies on the surgical treatment of PD. In addition, current DBS technology was found to have been applied to the treatment of a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as anorexia nervosa  and depression . Although NSFC mainly funds basic research, it may also provide financial support for small, highly innovative clinical trials. For example, the explorations performed by Canadian scholars in anorexia nervosa  collected data from treatment and follow-ups of only six patients, but the results were considered intriguing enough to be published in Lancet. China’s population is gradually aging, and the occurrence of various neurodegenerative diseases such as PD, is significantly correlated with age. For this reason, explorations on the cause, early diagnosis, and treatment of PD must be supported. Strategic guideline that to support basic research, facilitate free exploration, and play a guiding role may allow the NSFC to further strengthen its financial support for PD research, and the field of PD research in China will continue to grow.
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