Last week I received a letter from Parkinson's UK appealing for donations for the final 'breakthrough' year of a project run by Prof Matthew Wood in Oxford which is developing a form of gene therapy that could slow or stop the progression of Parkinson's. The therapy is based on 'gene silencing' and the final push is to package the RNA agent in such a way that it can cross the blood-brain barrier to reach the target nerve cells.
What is gene silencing and RNA interference? Well Matthew Wood spoke at a scientific conference in 2005 organised by SPRING (which has gave way to the Research Support Network last year) and a summary of his presentation was produced in accessible language and can be found on page 38 of the conference report at http://spring.parkinsons.org.uk/images/stories/SpringDigest/2005/SM2005SupplementV2.pdf
(The SPRING Times index for other interesting research articles is at http://spring.parkinsons.org.uk/content/view/111/257/
The talk was given 8 years ago but is still relevant. It only goes to show that research takes a long time to bring to fruition. A more recent (but highly technical) paper on the work can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3479180/
The implication is that RNA interference promises to be an effective therapy and it now only remains to perfect the technique of packaging up the bits of RNA and getting them through the blood-brain barrier. The paper that was enclosed with the appeal letter is at http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/pdf/g-1109_wood_update2013.pdf