Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition, where a group of neurons degenerate over time causing worsening symptoms. Generally first noticed as movement disorders of resting tremor and slowness of movement, Parkinson’s often also includes other non-motor symptoms from cognitive impairment to loss of smell.
Parkinson’s Disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease affecting over 6 million people worldwide and in the UK 80 people are newly diagnosed with it every day. Similar to other neurodegenerative diseases, a minority of patients with Parkinson’s carry genetic mutations that constitute a major risk for the disease, but in the majority of cases it is unknown why particular types of neurons degenerate.
The specific neurons that are lost in Parkinson’s disease are those that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and current treatment is largely limited to replacing dopamine, but this only alleviates some of the movement symptoms, and doesn’t slow the progression of the disease.
Over the next few years, we aim to:
- Establish standardised ways of collecting biological and clinical information about Parkinson’s disease so that we can group patients according to ways in which they might best respond to treatment
- Progress a candidate treatment from one of SITraN’s in house drug screening assays using tissue donated by patients with Parkinson’s disease into a clinical trial
- Develop quantifiable ways to track movement disorders with our colleagues at INSIGNEO that will help with early diagnosis and to reliably assess the effect of potential new treatments
In the future, developing further models to study Parkinson’s disease in the laboratory, combined with continued drug screening, will allow more candidate therapies to be advanced into experimental medicine trials in patients. We are working with our colleagues in Advanced Medical Imaging to develop brain scanning techniques that will allow us not only to verify theories about what happens in the neurons that degenerate in Parkinson’s disease, but that furthermore may help to objectively measure whether new candidate treatments hit those targets in patients. If robust readouts of whether a drug engages with its target are established, then taking any promising new therapy from early phase clinical trials to larger scale later phase multi-centre studies will be more achievable.