A pioneering clinical trial will combat Parkinson's disease

Ainhoa Sorrosal
Starting in April, it will last for one year, and 700 patients from different countries who are in the early stages of the disease will take part

A team of researchers from Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, led by Jaume Kulisevsky, researcher and professor at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya's Faculty of Health Sciences, will take part in a clinical trial with 700 patients from different countries to combat Parkinson's disease. The trial will work directly on abnormal deposits that are generated by the protein alpha-synuclein and cause neuron death, affecting the patients' motor system.

"There are several ways of going about this: changing the gene, capturing the abnormal deposits in the neuron or even generating antibodies", Kulisevsky explains. This way, he adds, by identifying risk groups, this treatment could work as a vaccine. "If the results are positive, they could open up a new line of research aimed at stopping the disease. Present research and treatments are aimed at palliating the symptoms", he specifies.

The trial with patients will start this April and it will be carried out simultaneously in different centres around the world, including Germany, the Netherlands, the United States or Canada. Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau will monitor 10 patients. The participants, all of them in the early stage of the disease, will be given the active drug or placebo and the results will then be compared. "This is a promising new line of research that may trigger a paradigm shift in the patients' treatment, as until now there was no evidence that it was possible to have any influence on the disease's progression", he stresses.

The treatment will last for one year and the conclusions are expected to be presented in 2020.

New drug

At the same time, Kulisevsky's team has developed a drug to attenuate the cognitive effects of Parkinson's disease. This project has been developed with assistance from the UOC and the Hospital Carlos III's CIBERNED in Madrid; the conclusions will be published at the end of 2018. The partnership between the UOC and Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau will also study, with patients, whether transcranial magnetic stimulation improves motor abilities and the cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with the disease.

The neurodegenerative disease with the second highest incidence

This disease has a significant impact within society. Seventy per cent of the 300,000 patients are under 80 and, with an ageing population, the trend is for it to increase in forthcoming years. It is not a fatal disease, but each year 18 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants are diagnosed. The incidence increases after 40 years of age.

The main hurdle in neutralizing it and finding a definitive treatment is the fact that its causes are not known. The experts believe that genetic predisposition and environmental factors have a significant weight. As regards genetic predisposition, this is thought to account for between 5 and 10% of the cases. In this scenario, big data may help to target treatment better as "this is a disease that has different manifestations".


Photograph of Jaume Kulisevsky Bojarski

Jaume Kulisevsky Bojarski

Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences

Expert in: Movement disorders and neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, restless legs syndrome, etc.).

Knowledge area: Neurology.

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