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AND-PD 2nd Consortium Meeting

We recently held our 2nd consortium meeting in Cuenca, Spain. Owing to the ongoing pandemic the meeting was a mix of face-to-face and online interactions.

The meeting began with a visit from the vice president of the Castilla La Mancha regional government, José Luis Martínez Guijarro, the mayor of Cuenca, Darío Dolz, the vice president of the Cuenca Provincial Council, Francisco López; the delegate of the Board in Cuenca, María Ángeles Martínez, and the national deputy, Luis Carlos Sahuquillo who were delighted their city was playing host to EU Parkinson's disease researchers. Read more here.

The scientific discussions began with presentations from Gilberto Fisone (Karolinska Institutet) and Elsa Pioli (MOTAC) giving an update on progress with defining the phenotype of comorbid anxiety/depression in animal models. Some models are proving better and easier to use than others and there was in-depth discussion of the best way forward with these.

Discussions then moved on to defining the neural circuitry that underlies anxiety as a co-morbidity of Parkinsons. Francois Georges (University of Bordeaux), Josh Goldberg (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Raffaella Tonini (Italian Institute of Technology) and Gilad Silberberg (Karolinska Institutet) all updated the group with the progress of their research on this topic.

Sarah Cole (Transine Therapeutics) informed the group on progress with designing SINEUPs®, a unique class of therapeutic RNAs which it is hoped may ultimately be used to treat anxiety and depression in Parkinson's. Stefano Gustincich (Italian Institute of Technology) then presented his work on the molecular characterisation of Parkinson's co-morbidities which has already begun to identify some genes which could be used as biomarkers of vulnerability to co-morbid anxiety and depression.

The discussions on the first day concluded with a presentation by AND-PD co-ordinator Rosario Moratalla (CSIC) on her work analysing brain samples from PD patients. Unfortunately, this has suffered some delays due to the COVID pandemic meaning that access to the samples has been difficult, however, much work has been done on validating methods to be used.

This theme was picked up at the start of the second day by José Lanciego (FIMA) who presented the group with results from the validation of an artificial intelligence algorithm which will improve efficiency and reduce bias in the quantification of neurons in the brain samples.

Discussions then moved to clinical topics with Ray Chaudhuri (King's College, London) presenting an update on his work to create neural maps of the human brain and investigate how these change with anxiety and depression in Parkinson's disease. The scope of this work has been widened to include the use of a larger number of radiotracers. Laura Grover and Anette Schrag (University College, London) then presented the progress of their work on clinical phenotyping and risk factors of co-morbidities in PD patients. The COVID pandemic has made face-to-face assessment of patients difficult but this is now being done remotely.

The final session of the meeting was a discussion led by Bridget Glaysher (Modus Research and Innovation) of the plans for communication and dissemination of results. There are plans to present the results of the project so far at a number of scientific meetings and conferences over the next few months. More details will be made available on this website soon!

The group took advantage of the fascinating location in Castilla La Mancha and made time to visit the beautiful nearby Roman villa of Noheda, which contains the largest Roman mosaic in the world and the Abstract Art Museum of Cuenca, which is partly housed in the amazing Hanging Houses of Cuenca.


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