As a clinical academic in geriatrics, a key focus of my research is the applicability into everyday practice. My research career pathway in older people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders is an exemplar of this, which has been supported by the Newcastle NIHR Biomedical Research Centre. The ageing and long-term conditions theme spans this area, where I have focussed research to date on cognition, gait, falls and sarcopenia within neurodegenerative disease. This case study highlights the training and development opportunities from the NIHR BRC which have allowed me to move forwards in my research career and how I am ensuring this can be translated into patient benefit.
I am an academic geriatrician with my key research interest being in Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disease. Within Parkinson’s disease, my principal areas of interest are cognitive function, gait (including digital mobility) and falls; and I am primarily interested in their neurobiological underpinning. This work aligns with the strategically important areas for the NIHR – ageing, data/digital healthcare – and is demonstrated in my key role within our recently launched €50 million IMI MOBILISE-D project. I am also an active member of the Older People’s Medicine department within NuTH, and run a specialist clinic for older adults with Parkinson’s and complex health needs, in addition to a general medical memory clinic.
Throughout my research career, from PhD to early career researcher, the NIHR has provided a number of training and development opportunities. This has included a brief time as BRU Training Lead, which allowed me to attend a number of national NIHR events.
My research funded to date includes:
Prevention of falls in older people is a public health priority. Gait disorders are a primary driver of falls and are common manifestations in ageing and associated conditions such as Parkinson’s disease (PD). Gait changes and falls also contribute to and are consequences of ageing syndromes such as sarcopenia and frailty. The burden of gait impairments and falls risk is greatest in people with PD, as highlighted by people with PD who voted them as the number one research priority in a recent James Lind Alliance and Parkinson’s UK priority setting partnership.
Over the past 25 years, the global burden of PD has more than doubled due to increasing numbers of older people, longer disease duration and environmental factors; this has been associated with an increase in disability-adjusted-life-years. This study will therefore contribute to the Newcastle NIHR BRC’s objective of understanding the mechanisms and ageing and treating age-related diseases, by exploring a novel mechanism and potential non-pharmacological treatment for gait disorder in PD. Targeting specific gait characteristics which underpin falls risk could conceivably reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with falls in PD, with wider implications for other ageing conditions if efficacy is demonstrated.
From the training and development that I have received to date, I am planning to apply for a NIHR programme development grant looking at falls in Parkinson’s disease. This will build on my research findings to date with the ultimate aim to potentially apply for a programme grant. I will also build on the links I have developed with digital mobility outcomes with other academic and industry partners.
Translational research in Parkinson’s disease; an ageing-associated condition