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The Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre

Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre research lab
The Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre (OPDC) is a unique, collaborative initiative that brings the best scientific minds together to speed up the search for better treatments and a cure for Parkinson's.

In the last 5 years we've made remarkable progress. We've built a study integrating work in the clinic and the laboratory like nowhere else in the world.

Professor Richard Wade-Martins, Leader of the Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre

We desperately need better treatments for Parkinson's, but there are still fundamental gaps in our understanding of the condition that stand in our way.

The Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre is Parkinson's UK's largest ever research project - £11million over 10 years - made possible by our funding partners The Monument Trust.

Aims of the OPDC

The team is looking at Parkinson's from every angle and by 2020 they hope to:

  • Identify targets for new and better treatments for Parkinson's with fewer side effects. Using the knowledge and insights they gain in the lab and the clinic the team will identify promising targets for new therapies that can slow or stop the development of Parkinson's.
  • Develop simple ways to diagnose and monitor Parkinson's much more accurately. The team are exploring innovative new approaches diagnosis including looking at brain scans, blood samples and using new technologies – such as smartphone applications – to monitor Parkinson's symptoms remotely.

Professor Richard Wade Martins

Professor Richard Wade Martins heads up the Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre. In the video below he provides an overview of the research process.

He talks us through the work he and his team have underway and highlights some extraordinary technological discoveries being made worldwide, which will ultimately make more clinical trials possible:

What's been achieved so far?

Since the Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre was established in 2010 the team have made rapid progress. Major achievements include:

Understanding Parkinson's better than ever before

The OPDC is leading one of the largest studies of people living with Parkinson's anywhere in the world with more than 1,400 participants.

This has already helped the research team unravel new insights including discovering key differences between men and women with Parkinson's.

Driving towards better diagnosis

Diagnosing Parkinson's is currently a complex and slow process. By the time symptoms appear, more than half of the dopamine-producing brain cells have already been lost.

But studying blood samples and brain scans from people taking part in the study is leading the way to better and earlier diagnosis. The team have shown that MRI brain scans can diagnose early stage Parkinson's with an accuracy of 85%.

Creating a 'brain cell bank'

These brain cells are grown from tiny samples of skin donated by people with the condition using cutting-edge techniques.

These cells provide a vital window into the Parkinson's brain and are allowing scientists to study their behaviour more closely than ever before.

Developing new and more realistic animal models

One of the greatest challenges facing Parkinson's research is the lack of suitable animal models for developing and testing new drugs and treatments.

The team in Oxford have successfully produced mice and rats which develop Parkinson's symptoms as a result of subtle but specific genetic changes that are known to play a part in the human condition.

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