In France, Parkinson’s disease affects more than 150 000 people, and there are 6.5 million sufferers in the world, a figure set to increase as the population ages.
World Parkinson’s Day is taking place on 11 April, in memory of the anniversary of the birth of Dr James Parkinson, the first physician to describe the symptoms of this degenerative disease, in 1817.
A condition that is still of largely unknown cause, Parkinson’s disease is characterised by progressive degeneration of the neurons that produce dopamine. The symptoms are motor-related, with tremor being the best known, but they also include slowness of movement, a feeling of stiffness, difficulty with writing, and pains.
This year, the day is specifically devoted to interruptions in care, and is an opportunity to remind the general public that Parkinson’s disease is not a rare disease. Thus, throughout France, public institutions and associations, especially the France Parkinson association, are taking initiatives to welcome the public and inform them about this serious condition.
Throughout the year, researchers from Inserm work hard to better understand this disease and develop new therapies.
In particular, Inserm Unit 1084, “Experimental and Clinical Neurosciences Laboratory,” is working to develop cellular therapies to repair the brain lesions seen in Parkinson’s disease. The first results have been successful in animals. The researchers are now trying to obtain other sources of cells capable of developing into neurons that may be transplanted to repair the injured brain.
Read the press release about this team recent findings: «Repairing the cerebral cortex: it can be done »
Meanwhile, the members of Inserm Unit 1127, “Brain and Spinal Cord Institute,” are interested in the molecular and genetic mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease. A better understanding of the cause of neuronal death should make it possible to identify new symptomatic and curative therapies.
Finally, Benjamin Dehay, Inserm researcher, and his team at Joint Research Unit 5293, “Institute of Neurodegenerative Diseases,” are working on the cellular and molecular bases for the processes underlying movement impairments in Parkinson’s disease and atypical parkinsonian syndromes (20% of syndromes). They are mainly focusing on the mechanisms that lead to the total loss of response to L-dopamine in these atypical syndromes.
For your interviews and reporting requirements, you can find all specialist contacts at Inserm in the “Parkinson press-kit” available as a download opposite.
 Source: DREES (Directorate for Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics), Étude sur l’état de santé de la population en France, édition 2015 (Study on the State of Health of the French Population, 2015 Edition).