Members of Dr. Savica's research team sitting around a conference table Breaking new ground to find the causes of early-onset Parkinson's disease and related neurodegenerative disorders

By identifying early predictors and mechanisms that lead to early-onset Parkinson's disease and synucleinopathies, Dr. Savica's research team is revealing information that will lead directly to improved diagnosis and treatment.


The Early-Onset Parkinson's Disease and Synucleinopathies Lab at Mayo Clinic focuses on early-onset Parkinson's disease and related synucleinopathies, including later onset Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia, multiple system atrophy and other disorders.

Early-onset Parkinson's disease is a group of conditions characterized by symptoms of parkinsonism — for example, tremor, rigidity, falls and slowness of movements — that start earlier than the usual onset of Parkinson's disease, which generally occurs at around 65 to 70 years of age. Although there is currently no clear age cutoff to define early-onset Parkinson's disease, there are some crucial differences between patients with earlier onset and later onset Parkinson's disease that extend beyond the age of onset. Indeed, early-onset Parkinson's disease may exhibit differences in genetic and environmental risk and protective factors, response to therapy, and prognosis.

Synucleinopathies are commonly clinically diagnosed in late adulthood. However, pathological hallmarks of synucleinopathies begin years before a clinical diagnosis. The Early-Onset Parkinson's Disease and Synucleinopathies Lab is working toward identifying new early predicting factors that may be associated with synucleinopathies, such as sleep disorders, gait disorders, anemia, biomarkers and various environmental factors.

Understanding the association of these early risk factors can help specialists detect synucleinopathies much earlier in life, enabling them to provide the best possible care. Importantly, such information may have differing scientific and clinical meaning in patients with early-onset Parkinson's disease. Individuals with early-onset Parkinson's disease also have different societal requirements that need to be considered. Taking advantage of Mayo Clinic's multidisciplinary Early-Onset Parkinson's Disease Clinic, led by Dr. Savica, the Early-Onset Parkinson's Disease and Synucleinopathies Lab strives to translate research findings into improved clinical care for patients at Mayo Clinic and for the population at large.

The Early-Onset Parkinson's Disease and Synucleinopathies Lab is led by Rodolfo Savica, M.D., Ph.D., with the involvement of a number of Mayo Clinic collaborators, including Brent A. Bauer, M.D.; Fabrice Lucien-Matteoni, Ph.D.; and Owen A. Ross, Ph.D. This long-standing collaboration has created a research team that works to understand the cause, pathogenesis and prevention of early-onset Parkinson's disease and neurodegenerative disorders caused by synucleinopathies, and the irregular accumulation of aggregates of alpha-synuclein protein in neurons, nerve fibers or glial cells. The neurology specialists and research staff strive to directly implement the findings of their research to provide the most accurate diagnosis and the best possible individualized care.

About Dr. Savica

Rodolfo Savica, M.D., Ph.D., is a professor of neurology and epidemiology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. His principal research interests include early-onset Parkinson's disease, Parkinson's disease and neurodegenerative diseases — in particular, dementias and dementia with Lewy bodies. His work focuses largely on the epidemiologic and genetic pre-motor risk factors and the clinical features of Parkinson's disease.

Dr. Savica's interests include predicting clinical phenotypes of the different clinical types of alpha-synucleinopathy. His research findings have been published in major scientific journals and presented at neurology and neuroscience conferences worldwide.