A new Parkinson’s treatment that works at night?

That’s what researchers at University College London want to find out. Dr Ian Harrison and his team are investigating how to help the brain remove more of the damaging toxic proteins associated with Parkinson's at night.

How do our brains get rid of waste?

Throughout the day, our brains build up waste, made up of dead cells and toxic proteins. And at night they have an amazing way of getting rid of this build up - the glymphatic system. When we’re asleep that's when the system gets to work.

What is the glymphatic system?

The glymphatic system is made up of a network of vessels that can carry this accumulated waste out of the brain. It uses cerebral spinal fluid to wash away the toxic proteins and dead cells that have built up during the day. And one of the things it washes away is alpha-synuclein, a toxic protein that is believed to play a major role in damaging brain cells in Parkinson’s.

Watch the video to find out more

This led Dr Ian Harrison to start thinking whether the system could be harnessed to remove more of these damaging proteins. Lab tests have already shown that toxic proteins linked to Alzheimer’s can be cleared away by boosting the glymphatic system. Dr Harrison and his team want to find out if the same results could be replicated for people with Parkinson’s.

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In this promising project, Dr Harrison and his team want to find the best way to boost the effectiveness of the glymphatic system. 

To do this they will test 4 different methods: 

  • A drug like molecule
  • A small amount of alcohol
  • A sugary molecule
  • Exercise    

The next step will be to identify which method is most effective and then find out the levels they need to be given at. This could pave the way for a new treatment that could stop or slow the progression of Parkinson’s. 

If this research did lead to a new treatment that could stop the progression of Parkinson’s, this would be truly groundbreaking for people affected by Parkinson's.

How did coronavirus affect this research? 

The lockdown that began in March 2020 meant that Dr Harrison’s work had to be paused. But the team spent this time redesigning their project allowing them to run multiple experiments at once and hit the ground running as soon as it was safe to do so.

If  you'd like to know more, you can read an article by Claire Bale, Parkinson's UK's Head of Research Comms and Engagement blog,here

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If you need our support about coronavirus, or any aspect of living with Parkinson’s, please get in touch via our helpline on 0808 800 0303. You can also read the latest guidance on coronavirus and Parkinson’shere

Insomnia and sleep issues are one of the side effects of Parkinson's. If you, or anyone you know would welcome any further information or support, you can read or download our guide here.

Sleep and Parkinson's

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