Could sleep boost waste disposal in the brain and prevent Parkinson’s?

Alongside Alzheimer’s Research UK, we’re funding new research that will investigate whether boosting the brain’s self-cleaning system could be the key to new treatments.

The project, launched today, will be led by Dr Ian Harrison at the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging at University College London. The study will look at the role of sleep, exercise and alcohol in boosting waste disposal in the brain to prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Based on a recent discovery

The glymphatic system - a recently discovered brain-wide pathway - works to remove waste products from the brain. We’ve teamed up with Alzheimer’s Research UK on a pioneering three-year project to find out whether boosting this system could help to clear toxic proteins involved in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

Previous research has shown that sleep, exercise and low levels of alcohol may help the glymphatic system to clear out toxic proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid of mice. 

Potential for new treatments

This new project will build upon these promising findings and investigate whether boosting the glymphatic system with drug-like molecules can help the brain rid itself of toxic proteins, and whether this could protect it from damage.

By understanding how the glymphatic system affects the accumulation and spread of proteins in the brain, and by finding a way to boost its function, it could lead to treatments that can target an important cause of both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

“Speeding up research in two closely related fields”

Dr Ian Harrison of UCL said:

“The funding of the project by Alzheimer’s Research UK and Parkinson’s UK will allow tandem investigation of both proteins in both neurological disorders, ultimately speeding up research in two closely related fields, and the hope in finding a way to slow down or stop the progression of both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.”

We recently caught Dr Ian Harrison to find out more about the 3-year project and what he hopes to achieve. You can read more about the research in our blog.

Professor David Dexter, Deputy Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, commented:

“This is the first time we’ll be studying the glymphatic system’s role in clearing toxic proteins, and the potential it provides for developing new treatments which are urgently needed by people living with Parkinson’s.

“By teaming up with Alzheimer’s Research UK we’re able to invest more time and resource in order to improve the lives of over one million people across the UK.”

Sleep and Parkinson’s

Sleep is important for brain health. Find out more about how Parkinson’s affects sleep, and potential tips for sleeping well.