Established patterns of animal study design undermine translation of disease-modifying therapies for Parkinson's disease

Caroline J. Zeiss, Heather G. Allore, Amanda P. Beck

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28 Scopus citations


Translation of disease-modifying therapies in neurodegenerative disease has been disappointing. Parkinson's disease (PD) was used to compare patterns of preclinical study design for symptomatic and potentially disease-modifying interventions. We examined the relationship of model, intervention type and timing, outcomes and outcome measures in 543 animal and human studies (1973-2015) across a contemporary cohort of animal and human interventional studies (n = 445), animal studies for approved interventions (n = 28), animal and human studies for those that failed to translate (n = 70). Detailed study design data were collected for 216 studies in non-human primate (NHP) and rodent toxin-induced models. Species- specific patterns of study design prevailed regardless of whether interventions were symptomatic or potentially disease-modifying. In humans and NHPs, interventions were typically given to both sexes well after the PD phenotype was established, and clinical outcome measures were collected at single (symptomatic) or multiple (disease-modifying) time-points. In rodents, interventions often preceded induction of the model, acute toxic protocols were common, usually given to young males, clinical outcome measures were used less commonly, and outcomes were less commonly assessed at multiple time points. These patterns were more prevalent in mice than rats. In contrast, study design factors such as randomization and blinding did not differ appreciably across symptomatic and disease-modifying intervention categories. The translational gap for potentially disease-modifying interventions in PD in part results from study designs, particularly in mice, that fail to model the progressive nature and relatively late intervention characteristic of PD, or that anchor mechanistic and neuropathologic data to longitudinal clinical outcomes. Even if measures to improve reproducibility are broadly adopted, perpetuation of these norms will continue to impede effective translation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0171790
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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