UK-first Parkinson's study at King's

15 March 2012 - Patients from King’s have been taking part in a UK-first research study which could potentially give people with Parkinson’s a new lease of life.

Teaming up with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, specialists from King’s carried out the study proving a link between fatigue and abnormally low serotonin receptors in the brain.

The movement symptoms of Parkinson’s - typically a tremor - are well known. However with Parkinson’s, other non-motor problems such as fatigue, regularly occur even though they are not recognised characteristics of the condition.

Parkinson’s patients with fatigue find great difficulty doing things that other people would find easy. Engaging in physical or social activity becomes a struggle. They often have a lack of motivation and have difficulty within their relationships leading to social isolation. Currently there is no particular treatment for patients who suffer with fatigue. Advice is to exercise and do puzzles and other activities that stimulate the brain.

The results of the study now mean that specialists can look into drugs trials, to effectively treat the fatigue.

The study - performed by Dr Vinod Metta from King's and Imperial's Dr Nicola Pavese and Professor David Brookes - used 20 patients, 10 with fatigue and 10 without. Each were injected with a dye which then lights up the serotonin areas of the brain using a PET (Positive Emission Tomography) scan. PET scans are used to help diagnose a number of conditions that affect the normal workings of the brain and other parts of the body.

King’s specialist Prof K Ray Chaudhuri who is also the Professor of one of the twelve International Parkinson’s Foundation Centres of Excellence, said: "Fatigue affects around half of our Parkinson's patients here at King’s - around 300 people. The research, proving an actual link between fatigue and abnormally low serotonin receptors is groundbreaking. This means that patients can potentially be directly treated for their fatigue which will greatly improve their lives and wellbeing."

The team of specialists at King’s now plan to run a series of drugs trials, the first being Triptans. This is traditionally used for migraine treatment but it is now believed that it could also be used to treat the fatigue in Parkinson’s patients.

The clinical aspect of this study was supported by a grant from Parkinson's Disease Non Motor Group to King's.

For further information please contact:
Anna Sykes
Communications Manager
Extension: +44 (0)20 3299 3850
Fax: +44 (0)20 3299 3207

Notes to editors

1. King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the UK’s largest and busiest teaching hospitals, with nearly 7,000 staff providing around 1,000, 000 patient contacts a year. King’s has a unique profile, with a full range of local hospital services for people in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark as well as specialist services to patients from further afield. The Trust is recognized internationally for its work in liver disease and transplantation, neurosciences, cardiac, haemato-oncology, stroke and major trauma. King’s also plays a key role in the training and education of medical, nursing and dental students with its academic partner, King’s College London. For more information, visit

2. King’s College Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ are both part of King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC), a pioneering collaboration between King’s College London, and Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts.

King’s Health Partners is one of only five AHSCs in the UK and brings together an unrivalled range and depth of clinical and research expertise, spanning both physical and mental health. Our combined strengths will drive improvements in care for patients, allowing them to benefit from breakthroughs in medical science and receive leading edge treatment at the earliest possible opportunity.

For more information, visit