Can we predict Parkinson's?
We've given Dr Alastair
Noyce at the University of London an innovation grant worth £35,000 to develop tests
that may one day be able to predict which people will get Parkinson's.
The Predict PD project aims to recruit 1,000 healthy people aged
between 60 and 80 who have access to the internet, and do not have
a current diagnosis of Parkinson's.
"I'm very excited to be leading this groundbreaking pilot
"We're attempting to develop online tests that can identify
people at higher risk of Parkinson's before the symptoms appear -
something that has never been done before."
Read the Can we predict
Parkinson's? - research project summary (PDF, 288KB) or
find out more below.
Why do we want to predict Parkinson's?
One reason why
we don't yet have a cure for Parkinson's is because the movement
features of the condition only appear once 70-80% of the
dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain have already been
The nerve cells start dying many years before symptoms appear.
But we don’t know enough yet about the very early stages of
If we could identify people early – before the movement problems
appear – we would be in the best possible position to slow, stop or
even reverse Parkinson's.
Searching for the earliest clues
To identify people at risk of Parkinson's, Alastair and the
team will look for the earliest signs of the condition.
Recent research suggests that problems including loss of sense
of smell, sleep problems, constipation, anxiety and depression may
occur many years before the movement problems of Parkinson's
But these are all fairly common problems. Many older people
probably experience one or two of them at some stage.
So finding people who experience several of these issues
together may be the key to identifying Parkinson's in the very
Developing simple tests to predict Parkinson's
Alastair and the team have combined a set of 3 simple online
tests that screen for factors known to be linked to increased risk
Predict PD website participants
- an online questionnaire that collects information on various
medical and lifestyle factors that may influence risk of
- a smell test containing 40 'scratch and sniff' odours
- and a simple keyboard tap test to measure accuracy and speed of
movement in people's arms
The research team will then analyse each person's scores in
these 3 tests to work out which aspects are likely to be most
helpful for predicting Parkinson's in the future.
Will the project identify people who will get Parkinson's?
No. This is the first study of its kind. So whilst the online
tests may suggest some people could be at increased risk, it's too
soon to know how accurate or meaningful the tests are.
People involved in this pilot study will not discover their
individual risk score.
A vital step towards a cure for Parkinson's
study will help us refine our tests to work out risk of Parkinson's
with maximum accuracy.
If successful, this project will lead on to larger studies to
develop the tests further.
If we can predict Parkinson's, we hope to one day have
treatments for those in the early stages that could slow or prevent
the condition progressing - which would be a major step forwards
towards a cure.