Wednesday, 5 April 2017
University of Adelaide researchers are contributing to the ongoing global effort to better understand, treat and prevent Parkinson's disease, 200 years after the disease was originally described.
April is Parkinson's Awareness Month, and World Parkinson's Day is held every year on 11 April.
This year is particularly important, as it marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Dr James Parkinson's seminal work, An Essay on the Shaking Palsy. This was the first paper to describe the debilitating motor symptoms in the body associated with Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson’s disease is characterised by four major motor symptoms: resting tremor, slow movement, postural instability, and rigidity.
More than 80,000 Australians (1 in 350) is affected by Parkinson's disease, and this number is expected to double by 2030.
"A piece of the puzzle missed by Dr Parkinson in his original essay is the fact that many people with Parkinson’s disease also suffer from non-motor impairments, such as cognitive dysfunction, depression and even a form of dementia," says University of Adelaide Parkinson's researcher Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino, from the Adelaide Medical School.
"These non-motor symptoms are still poorly understood, and there are limited treatment options available. Two hundred years on, there remains an urgent need for effective treatments and prevention for Parkinson's," she says.
Dr Collins-Praino's research focuses on better understanding the brain basis of these non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease, in the hopes of developing better treatment options.
Among the current research projects being conducted by Dr Collins-Praino and her colleagues are:
• Testing a drug that may suppress inflammation in the brain. "This could have beneficial effects for both motor and non-motor symptoms of the disease," Dr Collins-Praino says.
• Studying people with Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies (abnormal levels of protein that develop in nerve cells, a related condition). "This work aims to identify novel biomarkers that can help to predict the emergence and trajectory of cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson's disease," Dr Collins-Praino says. Conducted in collaboration with Professor Masahisa Katsuno (Nagoya Graduate School of Medicine, Nagoya, Japan)
• Investigating brain blood flow and its relation to cognitive function in Parkinson's disease. "This research is motivated by the fact that many individuals with Parkinson's disease suffer from low blood pressure, particularly when moving from sitting to standing. This may affect how blood is recruited to key brain regions during cognitive tasks," Dr Collins-Praino says. Conducted in collaboration with Dr Hannah Keage (School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia).