Parkinson’s UK announces a world first in the charity’s bid to find a cure

Published: 16 April 2012

Parkinson’s UK is launching the biggest in-depth research study tracking people with the neurological condition ever mounted anywhere in the world.

Parkinson’s UK has launched the biggest in-depth research study tracking people with the neurological condition ever mounted anywhere in the world.

The charity says it is investing over £1.6 million into the research study led by the University of Glasgow to unlock further secrets about Parkinson’s and to boost the chances of finding a cure.

Parkinson’s UK has chosen the opening day of Parkinson’s Awareness Week to put out an urgent call for 3,000 volunteers  - both recently-diagnosed people with Parkinson’s (in the last three years), those aged under the age of 50 at diagnosis, and their brothers and sisters - to take part in its ground-breaking ‘Tracking Parkinson’s’ clinical study. The Parkinson’s UK research project will be led by Dr Donald Grosset at the University of Glasgow and will link eventually to 35-40 centres around the UK.

‘Tracking Parkinson’s’ primary aim is to identify elusive biomarkers for Parkinson’s (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.”

News of the study comes at a time when hopes are growing at Parkinson’s UK, that we are closer than ever before to finding a cure for Parkinson’s.  A cure, in this instance, Dr Kieran Breen explained, would mean stopping the devastating symptoms of Parkinson’s – including tremors, mood changes, movement difficulties, loss of smell and speech problems - in their tracks.

Dr Donald Grosset, 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 be 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 our freephone helpline 0808 800 0303, or visit for full details and links to other Parkinson’s UK funded research.
You can also contact Glasgow University email, or telephone 0141 232 7846.

For interviews with Dr Donald Grosset, Parkinson’s UK Director of Research Dr Kieran Breen, and case studies of people living with Parkinson’s, contact Jill Davis at Parkinson’s UK on 020 7932 1335  Weekend and out of hours: 07961 460 248.  Press office contact
‘Tracking Parkinson’s’ visual footage is also available.

Notes for editors:
1. There are currently eighteen research centres taking part in Tracking Parkinson’s across the UK .Glasgow, Exeter, Newport, Llandudno, Milton Keynes, Barnstable, Kings Lynn, Huntingdon, Preston, Bournemouth, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Wirral, London, Norwich, Plymouth, Bury St Edmonds, Blackburn, and Carlisle, with more signing up in the coming months
2.      About Parkinson’s UK
127,000 people in the UK have Parkinson’s.  It is a progressive neurological condition for which there is currently no cure.
As the leading Parkinson’s research and support charity we are currently funding around 90 groundbreaking research projects worth £15 million across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Our ambitious 5-year research strategy is pushing our search for a cure to a new level. Our plan to cure Parkinson's - Parkinson's UK research strategy 2010-2014
Our Brain Donor Appeal launched in April 2009 won the PR Week Award 2009 for best not for profit campaign in the Corporate and Public category, and a Third Sector Excellence award.  The Appeal doubled the number of people on the brain donor register and attracted support from celebrities including Jeremy Paxman, Graham Norton, Jane Asher.  Donated tissue is requested by researchers all over the world and continues to contribute to world efforts to find a cure.
3.      About the University of Glasgow
Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. Today we are a broad-based, research intensive institution with a global reach. We are a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK research universities, and we’re striving to change the world with our expertise. Our annual research grants and contracts income totals more than £129m, which puts us in the UK’s top 10 earners for research.
Dr Donald Grosset is Consultant Neurologist at the Institute of Neurological Sciences, Southern General Hospital, Glasgow, and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Neurology at the University of Glasgow.
4.      Parkinson’s UK’s work is totally dependent on donations.   Visit a cure or phone our helpline on 0808 800 0303.  To donate £2 to support our research for a cure, simply text CURE15 £2 to 70070.

First published: 16 April 2012

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