Last Friday the South East regional team of Parkinson's UK hosted a research event at the World of Mercedes Benz in Weybridge. We received this great account from an attendee, who kindly agreed that we could post it on the forum.
A volunteer, plogosphere, has also posted some videos on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/user/plogosphere?feature=watchFriday 15 March at the World of Mercedes Benz
Last Friday, my friend and I attended a research event organised by Parkinson’s UK at the World of Mercedes Benz. The venue was stunning – there were fantastic displays of past models, polished and gleaming, in an airy and bright building covering three floors. We were able to get behind the wheels of some of them. We both fancied a sexy and luxurious sports car and thought we looked pretty good in it!
Anyway, we had come with great eagerness to listen to four research scientists brief us on the progress to date on their respective projects.
Tim Bracher kicked off proceedings by a brief presentation of his experience living with Parkinson’s. Claire Bale (Research Communications Manager) followed on his heels, giving us an excellent summary of what we could expect to hear from the scientists.
First on was Dr Elizabeth Hartfield, Oxford University spoke on stem cell models, hoping that advancements in reprogramming skin cells will result in dopamine-producing nerve cells. Testing on 2K people over a 5 year period, it is hoped, will go some way to delivering a halt or cure.
Dr Brook Galna (Newcastle University) talked about the serious benefit offered by exercise and the various gadgets like the Wii which has improved walking and balance. He was involved in developing a simple game called Kinect for retraining postural control for people with Parkinson’s. He had brought a demo model of this game for us to try out but we were side-tracked by those cars blatantly beckoning us.
Prof Patricia Salinas’ (University College London) project was to develop strategies to protect the synapses which are junctions that permit the rapid transmission of messages and dialogue between cells. When these are lost, it leads to the death of the nerve cells which causes the movement problems characteristic of Parkinson’s.
The final speaker, Dr Maeve Caldwell (University of Bristol) presented her case for gene therapy as having potential to slow or halt the progression of Parkinson’s. Two newly identified neurotrophic factors may be able to protect the dopamine-producing nerve cells. A single injection of one of these have been found to protect the cells in rats. It is hoped that gene therapy may help increase the amount of these two proteins in the brain over a longer period of time. I felt this was the closest we’ve got to putting a stop to Parkinson’s but we await the news that this therapy will be available to the likes of me fairly soon.
So did we leave believing that some sort of relief was at hand? No, but I could almost smell it, touch it. It just may be closer than ever and it may even happen in my lifetime.
Overall, a well organised event with lots of information and hope.
Meantime, where is that sexy car again.....?