Dr Simon Stott at Van Andel Research Institute

'Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease' brings together hundreds of scientists, clinicians and people with Parkinson’s to explore the latest Parkinson’s research. The 2018 theme was Non-Motor Symptoms highlighting the roles of the gastrointestinal tract, the olfactory system and the immune system in the onset and progression of Parkinson’s.

The Grand Challenges meeting - a two day festival of Parkinson's research - followed The Cure Parkinson's Trust's international Linked Clinical Trials meeting. The overall theme of the meeting dealt with those symptoms of the condition which greatly affect quality of life for people with the disease and also may offer clues into its earliest stages, years before the hallmark motor symptoms begin - such as sleep problems, gut problems, loss of smell, depression, memory and thinking skills, also the 'biomarkers' of the disease.

A major feature of the meeting this year was a focus on the 'prodromal phase' of Parkinson's - this is the period of time before diagnosis when the symptoms of Parkinson's are just starting to show themselves. Some researchers are confident that we are gradually reaching a point in our understanding of Parkinson's where we will be able to identify people who may be at risk of developing Parkinson's. Such knowledge could lead to clinical trials being designed for treating individuals before they are actually diagnosed which is an exciting and growing area of research.

Dr Simon Stott - Deputy Director of Research