Improving quality of life for Parkinson’s patients

Parkinson's disease sufferer and carer

Murdoch researchers are exploring the genetics and molecular pathology of Parkinson’s disease to improve the precision and clinical management of patients.

Parkinson’s disease can be a debilitating and confronting disorder for many, causing damage to the nerve cells responsible for the smooth control of muscles and movement.

The disease mainly affects people aged over 65, but a fraction of patients develop the disorder much earlier. There is still much we don’t know about what causes the disorder or how and why it affects individuals differently.

Professor Sulev Kõks from Murdoch’s Centre for Molecular Medicine and Innovative Therapeutics and Perron Institute is leading research to better understand how the onset and progression of Parkinson’s disease is influenced by a person’s genotype.

“Some people see a clinical decline much faster, losing their independence after five years, whereas others can remain fully functional 12 years post diagnosis,” said Professor Kõks.


Our aim is to identify genetic risk factors that can be used to personalise treatment of Parkinson's patients depending on their genetic susceptibility to rapid progression of the disease.”

Professor Kõks has an extensive research repertoire in genetics and molecular pathology and is applying this knowledge to increase understanding between repetitive DNA elements and the rate of which an individual is developing Parkinson’s disease.

“Although our knowledge of how Parkinson’s affects people is very slim, we have already developed a long list of genetic markers from blood samples that represent potential reasons why people develop Parkinson’s disease,” said Professor Kõks.

“We analysed each person’s genome from their bloodwork, extracting DNA and RNA samples to identify any gene variances. The next step is to map out patterns within the genetic markers to identify a person’s likelihood of developing the disease and predict its trajectory.

It’s kind of like forecasting weather. This way, we can make people feel more comfortable, prepared, and remove much of the unknown on what living with Parkinson’s is like.”

Professor Kõks expects the research will be most impactful to Parkinson’s patients with more aggressive forms of the disease.

“Realistically, we might all suffer from a disease at some point in our life. But, why are they bad? Because it reduces our quality of life. You might not be able to work, eat properly or enjoy the company of others like you once would have,” explained Professor Kõks.

“Ideally, this study will help to suggest better personalised treatment plans for Parkinson’s patients to improve their quality of life. Whether that’s the introduction of home-operational equipment, or physical exercise plans to prolong the onset of aggressive deterioration.

“Genetics is just one part of it, to help explain why you have the disease, but the real impact is how our research can change how a Parkinson’s patient lives comfortably day-to-day.”

Posted on:

28 Jul 2020


Research, Science

Share this article:

Show your support

Clap to show your support for the article