Nerve cells

Parkinson’s disease

Every hour, someone in the UK is told they have Parkinson’s disease – a progressive neurological condition which currently has no definitive diagnostic test and no cure.

Our research includes the development of a non-invasive diagnostic test using biomarkers that may have the ability to diagnose early Parkinson’s, possibly even before physical symptoms appear.

We have developed a technique which works by analysing compounds found in sebum (the oily substance that coats and protects the skin) to identify changes in people with Parkinson’s disease. With high resolution mass spectrometry, we have profiled the complex chemical signature in sebum of people with Parkinson’s which show subtle but fundamental changes as the condition progresses.

We are also developing improved treatments for Parkinson’s disease, including improving deep brain stimulation – theme lead Professor Monty Silverdale is lead neurologist on the Greater Manchester DBS Programme.

Additionally, our research includes investigations of non motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease, in particular pain. This is a common but under-recognised symptom of the condition. Our team conducted the largest ever study looking at pain in early/moderate Parkinson’s, which showed that central causes – the brain’s sensitivity to pain – have a much more important role than mobility issues or the reduced movement that can come with the condition. This could lead to a major shift in the way pain symptoms are managed.

Other work includes investigating corneal confocal microscopy as a potential novel biomarker in Parkinson’s disease,  imaging and recording from the brain to understand gait and balance problems and a project to understand how the brain controls movement and how this goes wrong in Parkinson’s.

Research theme lead: Professor Monty Silverdale