New research to explore whether blocking inflammation in the brain may lead to new treatments for Parkinson’s

Studies will investigate the role of inflammation in the brain in Parkinson’s and test whether a new approach to reduce brain inflammation could potentially treat the condition.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or injuries and is not usually harmful. However, research suggests that prolonged inflammation of the brain, called chronic inflammation, may cause damage to healthy brain cells.

Researchers now believe that inflammation may play a role in the death of dopamine-producing brain cells in Parkinson’s, driving the development and progression of the condition.

What will the new study hope to explore?

Researchers at the University of Exeter aim to understand more about the cause of Parkinson’s. They also hope to determine whether a new medicine designed to block inflammation in the brain is safe and beneficial for people with Parkinson’s. The study involves 2 different clinical trials.

The first trial will use brain imaging to understand whether people with Parkinson’s are more likely to experience inflammation in the brain, and what causes this inflammation. This study will be led by the University of Exeter’s Neurodegeneration Imaging Group.

The second trial is an early stage clinical trial that aims to test whether a new medication, called Selnoflast, is able to block inflammation in the brain in people with Parkinson’s in a safe and effective way. This study will also be led by the University of Exeter and involve the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

What could the results mean for people with Parkinson’s?

If this study demonstrates that the new medication can reduce inflammation in the brain, and is deemed safe for people with Parkinson’s, it could encourage further, larger studies to take place to build evidence that this approach is beneficial for Parkinson’s. This could potentially lead to new treatments.

The research, funded by F. Hoffmann‐La Roche Ltd, may also advance our understanding of the development and progression of Parkinson’s, helping researchers design new and better treatments. Currently, the causes of Parkinson’s are widely unknown.

Professor David Dexter, Director of Research at Parkinson's UK, comments:

“Current research suggests that uncontrolled inflammation in the brain may be involved in the death of dopamine-producing cells in Parkinson’s.

“We are excited to see these studies starting in the UK to learn more about inflammation in Parkinson’s and to test a drug which may be able to protect brain cells by reducing inflammation.

“We are also investing in developing drugs that target inflammation through our Virtual Biotech programme and believe this approach could lead to new treatments that can slow, stop or reverse Parkinson’s.”