Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and carries with it an enormous burden for individuals and societies. But PD still lacks effective neuroprotective or disease modifying treatments. Improved biomarkers are needed to better understand disease biology, enable early diagnosis and monitor the effect of potential treatments. An association between blood vessel disease in the brain and PD is rapidly emerging. Greater vascular burden and/or risk factors, frequently seen in older adults, are associated with greater disability and more rapid disease progression in PD. Because vascular disease is potentially modifiable, a better understanding of the contribution of vascular disease to PD is of paramount importance.
ENIGMA-PD-Vasc is a new international initiative, led by Dr Sarah Al-Bachari, Academic Clinical Lecturer, Lancaster University, as part of the international ENIGMA-PD consortium – a network of researchers in PD enabling the pooling of magnetic resonance imaging brain scans from over 40 cohorts in 21 countries. This includes more than 3,000 scans and enables much more powerful and robust analyses than would otherwise be possible with smaller datasets. The collaboration is already generating important advances in the understanding of PD, including recent work on changes in brain structure, now accepted for publication in the journal Movement Disorders. Dr Al-Bachari has recently secured two separate research grants, one from the Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust, the other from the Academy of Medical Sciences, to support the ENIGMA-PD-Vasc project.