A NORTH-EAST university is helping to pioneer the world’s biggest study into Parkinson’s disease in the hope of finding a cure for the disorder.

Academics at Newcastle University will join forces with researchers from around the UK with the aim of combating the debilitating condition.

Parkinson’s UK is investing more than £1.6m into the study in the hope it will boost the chances of one day finding a cure.

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Newcastle University’s Clinical Ageing Research Unit is one of the key centres taking part in the Tracking Parkinson’s nationwide study.

David Burn, director of the university’s institute for ageing and health and professor of movement disorder neurology, is heading the study.

He said: “This is a very welcome and exciting new development in the research of Parkinson’s disease and we are delighted to be involved.

“Having experts from many different sites taking part is a great opportunity to harness expertise and it will help in our findings.

“The study will help to shed light on the signs and symptoms of the condition, how to better manage it and identify those more at risk of Parkinson’s disease.

“Newcastle University and the North-East has an international reputation for research into age-related conditions and this will complement our extensive portfolio of research.”

The main aim of the project is to identify biomarkers for Parkinson’s that could help develop simple tests – such as blood tests – to diagnose the condition at an early stage.

An early diagnosis is crucial if doctors are to prescribe the right drugs for people with the illness to help them control their symptoms.

As many as 40 research centres in the UK will take part and up to 150 volunteers are being sought for the clinical study in the North-East.

Participants will include patients recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, those under the age of 50 at diagnosis and their siblings. Volunteers will be monitored for up to five years.

Dr Kieran Breen, director of research and innovation at Parkinson’s UK, said that studies such as Tracking Parkinson’s could make a huge difference and help to ultimately find a cure.