Promising new approaches to Parkinson’s research
Neurology What are the most promising new approaches that are helping researchers to better understand the effects of Parkinson’s disease? Professor Roger Barker, who works at the University of Cambridge’s centre for brain repair, gives insight.
Three areas of complimentary research are contributing to researchers gaining a better understanding of PD and the right treatments for different people, Barker says.
“At the moment we don’t really understand why some people do well for many years while others quite quickly develop serious effects. We’re trying to learn why from looking at the genetic makeup of people who have more aggressive diseases. We can take their skin cells and reprogram them in the lab and convert them into nerve cells. Then we can discover new targets for research and treatments.”
“The future will come when we are able to take embryonic cells and turn them into new nerve cells, and inject them into the brains of people with PD. It won’t be a cure but it could vastly improve symptoms for 10 or even 20 years. There’s some research now in mice that is promising, and I hope to see results in the next five years.
“There’s focus on a protein called alpha synuclein, which builds up inside the brain cells of people with PD and spreads outside of the brain. It’s a completely new idea, but if proven we might be able to develop a vaccine to stop the symptoms.”