Parkinson’s disease experts at conference

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LEADING researchers from across the world will discuss the latest ground-breaking work to combat Parkinson’s disease at a conference in Yorkshire.

Two hundred delegates will attend the meeting organised by the charity Parkinson’s UK beginning today in York.

Experts are hoping latest developments to target the incurable neurological condition, which affects one in every 500 people in the UK, will increasingly be taken from the laboratory bench into clinics.

Key cutting-edge developments include work to develop stem cell treatments as well as gene therapy.

One area being explored involves transplanting stem cells into the brains of Parkinson’s patients to tackle causes of the condition.

Kieran Breen, director of research at Parkinson’s UK, said the two-day conference had a strong international flavour with researchers from the United States, Switzerland and Sweden attending. The charity had for the first time earlier this year awarded funding to researchers from abroad under a move to improve collaboration with other countries.

“Moving forward we hope to be taking the basic research and bring it more towards the clinic,” he said.

“The issue is how we can make use of this information to help people with Parkinson’s as opposed to simply understanding what is going on.”

Dr Breen said one avenue involved stimulating the re-growth of brain nerve cells vital in preventing the progression of the illness. But a key for many prospective treatments involved earlier and more accurate diagnosis of the condition, he said.

The charity launched its Tracking Parkinson’s project earlier this year which aims to find small changes in the body linked to the illness in the hope it will allow doctors to diagnose the condition more accurately.

Under the project, thousands of people with the condition diagnosed in the last three years or diagnosed before the age of 50 are being asked to undergo detailed monitoring of their symptoms at a network of 50 centres in the UK.