The last speaker at our recent research conference was Dr Oliver Bandmann, University of Sheffield. He summarised a fantastic day of talks and shared his thoughts on the future of Parkinson’s research.
You can read more about the conference here - http://bit.ly/1brnKVE
Thank you again to all those who came to the conference and to our research supporters who took the time to write these fantastic blogs.
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The final paper of the day entitled 'Summary and Overview' was given by Dr Oliver Bandmann from the Department of Neurology, University of Sheffield. Dr Bandmann began by pointing out that Parkinson's disease (PD) has been viewed primarily as a neuro-motor disorder brought about by the loss of dopamine producing cells. However, it has long been known that there are a large number of non-motor symptoms associated with the disease. Whether these symptoms have a single cause or are the result of multiple causes remains uncertain.
Dr Bandmann stressed that whether an individual develops PD depends partly on their genetic constitution, partly on their environment, and most importantly upon the way in which these two influences interact. In the last ten years tremendous progress has been made in the field of genetics and there are now a number of known genetic markers which increase the likelihood of an individual developing PD. Much of the recent progress has been made as a result of the Human Genome project which has analysed the entire sequence of genetic information encoded in human DNA. In the future it may well be possible to identify individuals who are particularly likely to develop PD and begin treatment much earlier than is presently the case.
Dr Bandmann acknowledged the very important work on the identification and measurement of non-motor symptoms of PD carried out by Dr Chaudhuri, who spoke earlier in the day.
I found this part of Dr Bandmann's discussion particularly interesting because I have been suffering from hypotension for quite a while without fully realising that it can be one of the many non-motor symptoms associated with PD. Learning that hypotension is possibly another manifestation of Parkinson’s was a helpful insight. The list of non-motor symptoms includes: sleepiness, disturbed dreams, fatigue, apathy, depression, constipation, problems with urinary control, sweating, erectile dysfunction and pain. One of Dr Bandmann's most important messages was that those of us with PD should be sure to alert doctors and neurologist when we have one or more of these symptoms. Fortunately many of them, but not all, can be treated easily with modern drugs.
Dr Bandmann ended his paper by acknowledging that whilst a cure for PD may be still some time off, a holistic approach to PD which focuses on patients' motor and non-motor symptoms leads to much better treatment and improved quality of life.
John Allen, Research Supporter