Parkinson’s is the world’s fastest growing neurological condition, with 12 million projected to be living with it by 2040. But what is going wrong inside the brain and how can we stop it?

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

Parkinson’s develops when cells in a particular part of the brain — called the substantia nigra — stop working properly and are lost over time. These brain cells produce a chemical called dopamine and play a central role in coordinating movement.

Symptoms start to appear when the brain can’t make enough dopamine to control movement properly.

In this blog, we dispel some common myths about clinical trials and highlight Parkinson’s studies that are actively seeking people to take part today.

Clinical trials are scientific studies that involve people. This kind of research is vital. It helps us learn more about how our bodies work, what goes wrong in conditions like Parkinson’s, and to road test potentially life-changing new treatments and therapies.

Without people stepping up to take part in clinical trials and studies, the medicines, therapies and support we have today simply would not exist.

During the pandemic many Parkinson’s studies and trials ground to a halt… but in 2021 many are restarting and ready to make up for lost time.

This year on International Clinical Trials Day we want…

Research sheds important new light on how the production of a key protein called tau is controlled. Understanding this important mechanism which helps fine-tune the production of this protein, could pave the way for new treatments for a wide range of neurological conditions.

In this blog we hear from scientists Professor Rohan de Silva and Dr Roberto Simone from University College London who led this important work and explain how these discoveries may lead to important new treatments for Parkinson’s.

Why proteins matter in Parkinson’s

There are thousands of different types of proteins in our bodies. They come in lots of shapes and sizes and are responsible for growth, development and the millions of tasks that keep us healthy.

Our cells are constantly making, processing and recycling proteins to make sure they have the right combination to do their jobs. And we have complex controls built into our…

Digital health technologies could be key to the search for treatments that can slow, stop or reverse Parkinson’s. We find out how the Parkinson’s community is working together to develop digital tools to use in clinical trials.

Photo by Miss Zhang on Unsplash

Parkinson’s is a progressive condition. Brain cells get damaged slowly over time, and this leads to gradually worsening symptoms that get harder to manage with current treatments.

The search is on for therapies that can slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s rather than just address symptoms.

These kinds of therapies are called ‘disease modifying’ and there are many promising new drugs and therapies currently in development.

Most scientists believe these therapies will be most effective if they are given early, when there are still plenty of working brain cells left to protect. …

Parkinson’s affects people of all ethnicities and races, but we know that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are particularly underrepresented in research. To deliver better treatments and care for everyone, we urgently need this to change.

We want Parkinson’s research in the UK to be inclusive and representative of everyone living with the condition.

This matters because some populations may have very different experiences of the condition and respond differently to therapies.

These differences may be due to variations in our underlying biology. A 2015 review of newly approved drugs found that about 20% were processed differently in the body and/or produced a different response in different racial or ethnic groups.

In Parkinson’s, research has revealed that North African and Ashkenazi Jewish populations are more likely to develop Parkinson’s due to a particular genetic mutation. …

Joy Milne, the woman who can smell Parkinson’s

Quick summary:

  • Researchers have developed a pioneering new technique that can identify Parkinson’s based on ‘smelly’ chemicals known as ‘volatiles’ found on the surface of the skin.
  • This research was inspired by one woman’s amazing ability to smell Parkinson’s.
  • This research could lead to a test to help diagnose Parkinson’s accurately, speedily and cost effectively.

Research part-funded by Parkinson’s UK has shown it is possible to identify the condition by analysing the chemicals present on the surface of the skin. …

We catch up with Dr Heather Mortiboys from the University of Sheffield to hear all about her exciting Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech project which aims to create new drugs that can rescue failing mitochondria.

Parkinson’s UK is investing up to £1.2 million into a pioneering one-year project in partnership with the University of Sheffield. The project aims to take important steps towards creating a drug that can protect dopamine-producing brain cells and slow down the progression of Parkinson’s.

This important project is funded through the charity’s Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech initiative, which exists to fast-track the development of new treatments for people with Parkinson’s.

We’re delighted to be joined on the Parkinson’s UK blog by lead scientist Dr Heather Mortiboys to tell us more about this exciting research.

What are mitochondria and why could drugs…

Further evidence emerges to suggest that terazosin — a drug currently used to treat enlarged prostate — may have the potential to slow or stop Parkinson’s. We take a look at the story so far and the next steps.

Photo by Christina Victoria Craft on Unsplash

Terazosin is a medication used to treat symptoms of an enlarged prostate and sometimes high blood pressure. It has been in use since 1985 and importantly the patent (or sole rights to sell the drug) has expired which means that it is very affordable.

In 2019, an international team of researchers first identified the potential of terazosin for treating Parkinson’s.

They found the drug was able to slow the loss of brain cells, increase dopamine levels and improve symptoms in various animal and cell models of Parkinson’s.

In a study of 150,000 people being treated for enlarged prostate, those treated…

We share the findings and key takeaways from a survey of over 700 people living with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s UK worked with people affected by the condition to design a simple survey to find out what aspects of Parkinson’s people with the condition most want to see improved through treatment.

The survey was shared with the charity’s Research Support Network — a community of people affected by Parkinson’s who are driving research forward.

Survey respondents were asked to list up to 3 symptoms or side effects of Parkinson’s that troubled them most.

The results — published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease — powerfully highlight the breadth and depth of symptoms and challenges that people with Parkinson’s deal…

Dyskinesia causes involuntary movements that can affect various parts of the body, making everyday tasks difficult. Now, two global charities are joining forces to drive forward a new drug to tackle this debilitating side effect of Parkinson’s medications.

Quick summary if you’re in a hurry:

  • Leading charities Parkinson’s UK and The Michael J. Fox Foundation are co-funding a £1.5million trial with biopharma company Neurolixis to test a new drug to reduce dyskinesia in people with Parkinson’s.
  • This new drug holds potential to reduce dyskinesia, a common side effect of current Parkinson’s medications.
  • Between 40 and 50 percent of people with Parkinson’s will experience dyskinesia after just five years of taking levodopa. After ten years of taking the medication, this figure jumps to up to 80 percent.

When NLX-112, a drug developed by the biopharmaceutical company Neurolixis, first entered the scene it was a molecule that…

Claire Bale

Head of Research Communications and Engagement, Parkinson’s UK

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