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Newcastle University part of bid to cure Parkinson's

We are taking part in the biggest in-depth study tracking people with Parkinson's ever mounted anywhere in the world.

The charity Parkinson's UK is investing over £1.6 million into the research study to unlock further secrets about the condition and to boost the chances of finding a cure.

More than 3,000 volunteers are needed - both people diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the last three years, and aged under 50 at diagnosis, and their brothers and sisters - to take part in its ground-breaking ‘Tracking Parkinson’s’ clinical study.

Newcastle University’s Clinical Ageing Research Unit working with Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of the key centres taking part. Research in Newcastle is being led by Professor David Burn, Professor of Movement Disorder Neurology.

Professor Burn said: "Finding a cure for Parkinson’s is what every researcher in the field dreams about. Tracking Parkinson’s is a major new research project and we are very excited to be involved right at the beginning. This study really offers hope for the future for people with Parkinson’s and we need around 150 people in Newcastle and the North East to volunteer to help us make our vision of a cure a reality."

‘Tracking Parkinson’s’ primary aim is to identify elusive biomarkers for Parkinson’s such as signpost indicators in the blood, for example, that could help develop simple tests, like blood tests, for use as diagnostic tools. Despite the best efforts of researchers worldwide no biomarkers have yet been identified for Parkinson’s. An early diagnosis is crucial if doctors are to be able to prescribe the right drugs for people with Parkinson’s to control – and one day, hopefully, even cure - their condition.

The responses of people with Parkinson’s to treatments for distressing symptoms like tremors, movement problems, anxiety, memory lapses and digestion problems will be closely monitored for up to five years.

Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Innovation at Parkinson’s UK said: “Studies like ‘Tracking Parkinson’s’ could make a huge difference and help us to ultimately find a cure. Identifying biomarkers is key and would revolutionise the diagnosis and management of Parkinson’s. Finding a cure for Parkinson’s is like building a gigantic jigsaw, but we still have a number of the pieces missing. This vital new study will help us fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge.

“We hope ‘Tracking Parkinson’s’ will also help us to identify people who have a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s and we can monitor them more accurately.”

A cure, in this instance, would mean stopping the devastating symptoms of Parkinson’s including tremors, mood changes, movement difficulties, loss of smell and speech problems.

Dr Donald Grosset at Glasgow University, who is leading the ‘Tracking Parkinson’s’ study, said: “The cure for Parkinson’s is a global challenge and all the samples gathered from our thousands of volunteers will be available for analysis by researchers the world over. This, in itself, will speed up our ultimate goal – to develop a cure for Parkinson’s. I am very excited to be leading this cutting edge research collaborating with top researchers from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

To qualify as a volunteer for ‘Tracking Parkinson’s’ at one of the UK centres, people need to have been diagnosed under the age of 50 or have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s within the last three years (from the date they register for the study). Brothers or sisters of either set of participants are also invited to take part.

To find out more about how to take part in Tracking Parkinson’s call the helpline on 0808 800 0303, or visit Parkinson's UK for full details.

published on: 16 April 2012