6 July 2018Europe

LSIPR 50 2018: A decade in the making, a Parkinson’s breakthrough

Parkinson’s disease affects 127,000 people in the UK. With the prevalence of the disease becoming more common with increasing age—around five in 1,000 over 60-year-olds, and around 40 in 1,000 over 80-year-olds are affected, according to charity Age UK—it’s predicted to become an increasing burden on the population and the health services.

A study undertaken by scientists from the University of Cambridge, University of Hertfordshire and Imperial College London found that in 2010, disorders of the brain, including dementia, stroke and mental health issues, cost the UK around £112 billion ($157.3 billion) annually, with Parkinson’s disease picking up a tab of £2 billion.

Parkinson’s disease has many potential symptoms, including involuntary shaking of parts of the body. As the disease progresses, cognitive and behavioural symptoms may also develop.

Despite the prevalence and growing cost of the disease, there’s no clear understanding of what causes Parkinson’s and, according to the University of Dundee scientists, funding for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases has traditionally lagged behind that of other disease fields.

In 2016, then UK Prime Minister David Cameron enabled the Medical Research Council to establish a £250 million Dementia Research Institute. With £150 million of funding from the UK government, and £50 million each from the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, the institute has set out to investigate Alzheimer’s and related disorders, including Parkinson’s in six universities across the UK (not including Dundee).

“With changing demographics the projected impact of these diseases on human health and the global economy has led to greater impetus to tackle these diseases,” explains Dr Miratul Muqit, Wellcome Trust senior clinical fellow and consultant neurologist in the University of Dundee’s school of life sciences.

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