Palacios’ $2.1M Award to Fund Parkinson’s Study

October 27, 2017 GMT

LOWELL -- A $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health recently was awarded to a UMass Lowell public-health assistant professor to fund a five-year study on Parkinson’s disease.

Assistant Professor Natalia Palacios will be leading the research team. Palacios joined the UMass Lowell team last year and teaches public health in the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. She previously worked at Harvard University’s School of Public Health. She said the research is in collaboration with Harvard, where Palacios earned her Ph.D.

“We are looking at the links between gut microbiome, which is all the bacteria that lives in the human gut, and Parkinson’s Disease,” Palacios said. “The microbiome is a new area for Parkinson’s disease, so we hope if we can identify a link between the microbiome and Parkinson’s, it could lead to a better understanding of the microbiome.”


Palacios said many Parkinson’s patients suffer from constipation and other gastrointestinal issues. If researchers do find a link between microbiome and the disease, they could be that much closer to finding a cure or offer some preventative measures -- like lifestyle or diet changes -- that could possibly to avoid the onset of Parkinson’s. The research will be focused on participants from “well-characterized and well-designed existing studies,” Palacios said.

“I’m extremely grateful to the participants who give their time and their samples to this research and who have been part of this research for many years now,” she said.

Other studies have also shown that smokers and those who drink coffee are at a lower risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. This research may also offer some insight to the reasoning behind that finding.

Palacios said she is honored to lead the research team and is excited about what’s to come over the next five years.

“I’m really hopeful that we can have some useful findings,” she said. “If we have promising findings we will try to pursue those areas and try to do other projects.”

Twitter: @KoriTuitt