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.