People with Parkinson’s needed for cutting edge trial at Frenchay Hospital

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Frenchay Hospital is leading a new, cutting-edge research trial, which could help to stop Parkinson's in its tracks and are looking for people with the condition to take part.

A team of researchers at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, are looking for 36 people with Parkinson’s to help them to continue developing a potential major new treatment for the condition as part of a £2million project funded by Parkinson’s UK, with support from The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and in association with the North Bristol NHS Trust.

Lead researchers, neurologist Dr Alan Whone, and neurosurgeon Professor Steven Gill, from Frenchay Hospital, are investigating the potential of a promising protein called Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (GDNF).

Building on the success of an initial safety trial, this promising study will investigate whether infusing GDNF directly into the brain using a specially designed delivery port could help to improve symptoms – such as a stiffness, slowness of movement and tremor – and slow down the spread of the condition.

Professor Gill said: “One of the biggest problems facing many researchers in the past has been finding a way to get past the blood/brain barrier, which prevents materials from blood entering the brain.

“We have developed a new way to bypass this barrier, and deliver the protein directly, by infusion, to the areas of the brain where cells die in Parkinson’s. We are hopeful that this will promote restoration of the dying neurones responsible for the symptoms of the disease.

"The initial safety phase carried out with six patients has assessed the device and the delivery system. The safety results from that mean that we are now ready to move into the main phase of the trial.”

For the next stage of the trial we will need 36 volunteers, some of whom will receive GDNF, and some of whom will receive a placebo “dummy” treatment for comparison, to take part”.

Dr Whone said: “We would stress that the surgery involved in this trial is invasive, and potential candidates will undergo rigorous testing and assessments. 

"They will need to meet specific criteria regarding their suitability for surgery, for example, their current Parkinson’s treatment plan and any family history. Regular travel to Bristol during the nine months that the trial will run is essential, so preferably they will live within easy reach of the hospital.”  

Parkinson’s develops when a lack of a chemical called dopamine, causes nerve cells within the brain to die. Previous research studies have suggested that GDNF has the potential to encourage these cells to grow again – in effect stopping the progression of Parkinson’s. 

Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Innovation at Parkinson’s UK, said: “For years, the potential of GDNF as a treatment for Parkinson’s has remained one of the great unanswered research questions, and  this new study will take us one step closer to finally answering this question once and for all.

“We believe that GDNF could have the potential to unlock a new approach for treating Parkinson’s that may be able to slow down, and ultimately stop, the progression of the condition all together.

“Currently there are very few treatments available for people with Parkinson’s, and none capable of stopping the condition from advancing. We look forward to seeing the results of this exciting trial and hope that it paves the way for a future treatment for Parkinson’s – a condition that affects over 127,000 people living in the UK.”

The project is also supported by MedGenesis Therapeutix Inc., which in turn, is supported by a major research grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation, USA.

For full details of volunteering with the GDNF trial and more details about the research, visit Parkinson's UK.