Tagged: memorial lecture

“What’s the evolutionary advantage of Parkinson’s?”

Each year King’s College London holds the Edmond J. Safra Memorial Lecture. It is a public event – exploring cutting-edge research on Parkinson’s – held in honour of the late philanthropist and financier, Mr Edmond J Safra, .

I was lucky enough to attend this year’s event (entitled A vision of tomorrow: How can technology improve diagnosis and treatment for Parkinson’s patients?). It highlighted the fantastic research being carried out by Professor Marios Politis and his team.

During the Q&A session of the event though, a question was asked from the audience regarding what the evolutionary advantage of Parkinson’s might be. The question drew a polite chuckle from the audience.

But the question wasn’t actually as silly as some might think.

In today’s post we look at some evidence suggesting an evolutionary advantage involving Parkinson’s.


King’s College London Chapel. Source: Schoolapply

Despite the impressive name, King’s College London is not one of the grand old universities of England.

Named after its patron King George IV (1762-1830), the university was only founded in 1829 (compare this with 1096 for Oxford and 1209 for Cambridge; even silly little universities like Harvard date back further – 1636). The university is spread over five separate campuses, geographically spread across London. But if you ever get the chance to visit the main Strand campus, ask for the chapel and take a moment to have a look – it is very impressive (the image above really doesn’t do it justice).

As I mentioned in the intro, each year King’s College London holds the Edmond J. Safra Memorial Lecture. It is an event that is open to the public and it involves a discussion regarding innovative new research on Parkinson’s. The evening is held in honour of the late Mr Edmond J Safra.

Edmond J. Safra. Source: Edmondjsafrafoundation

This year, Professor Marios Politis and members of his research group were presenting lectures on “How can technology improve diagnosis and treatment for Parkinson’s”. The lectures were very interesting, but the reason I am writing about it here is because during the question and answer session at the end of the lectures, the following question was asked:

“What’s the evolutionary advantage of Parkinson’s?”

Given the debilitating features of the condition, the audience was naturally amused by the question. And there was most likely several people present who would have thought the idea of any evolutionary advantage to Parkinson’s a ridiculous concept.

But it’s not.

And there is actually research to suggest that something evolutionary could be happening with Parkinson’s.

?!?!? What do you mean?

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The Parkinson’s UK 2016 Gretschen Amphlet Memorial Lecture

Gretschen Amphlet was a long-time resident of Cambridge (UK) who suffered from Parkinsons’s disease. Every year she is remembered in a memorial lecture in April.

This year, Prof Roger Barker of Cambridge University was asked to give the talk.

roger_barker

He is a Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge and an Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Prof |Barker conducts both lab-based and clinical research on Parkinson’s disease, co-ordinating large clinical studies such as the Transeuro cell transplantation trial currently being conducted.

His lecture was titled: Can stem cells deliver on their promise for Parkinson’s?

The event is organised by Parkinson’s UK.

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It was a beautiful evening outside the auditorium at FitzWilliams college in Cambridge…

FitzCollege

…and we were present in the lecture hall for the event. Parkinson’s UK filmed the lecture and that footage is available online (click here to watch it). We also offer a transcript of the lecture – to read the transcript, please click here.