News Release

Could sleep, exercise and alcohol help to prevent Parkinson's and Alzheimer's?

Business Announcement

Parkinson's UK

A new partnership between two leading medical research charities has launched today to explore how improving the brain's waste disposal system could be the key to preventing Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

The glymphatic system, a recently discovered brain-wide pathway, works to remove waste products from the brain. Parkinson's UK and Alzheimer's Research UK have teamed up for a pioneering three-year project to find out whether boosting this system could help to clear toxic proteins, tau and alpha-synuclein, involved in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The project will be led by Dr Ian Harrison at the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging at UCL. Previous research has shown that sleep, exercise and low levels of alcohol may help the glymphatic system to clear out toxic proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid of mice. This new research aims to build on these findings, testing the impact of these factors in speeding up the glymphatic function in mouse models, as well as the effect of a potential new drug.

The mouse models will be specifically designed so the spread of alpha-synuclein and tau throughout the brain can be tracked. Small amounts of the toxic proteins will be injected into the mice, before using drugs to block the glymphatic system to find out how it affects the spread of the proteins.

By then testing a range of therapies to speed up the glymphatic system, their impact in the spread of alpha-synuclein and tau can be measured, along with the impact on movement-based and memory-based symptoms in the mouse models.

By understanding how the glymphatic system affects the accumulation and spread of proteins in the brain, and by finding a way to boost its function, it could lead to treatments that can target an important cause of both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Combined, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's affect an estimated one million people across the UK. Current treatments do not stop, slow down, or reverse either of the conditions.

Dr Ian Harrison of UCL said:

"Studying how the glymphatic system affects the clearance of two distinct protein species that both accumulate in the brain and cause neurodegeneration means we'll be able to understand how best to harness the power of the system. This will hopefully allow us to provide a new therapeutic target for treatment of the conditions.

"The funding of the project by Alzheimer's Research UK and Parkinson's UK will allow tandem investigation of both proteins in both neurological disorders, ultimately speeding up research in two closely related fields, and the hope in finding a way to slow down or stop the progression of both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's."

Professor David Dexter, Deputy Director of Research at Parkinson's UK, said:

"We're very pleased to be collaborating with Alzheimer's Research UK on this exciting project which will explore ways to simultaneously prevent two serious neurological conditions.

"This is the first time we'll be studying the glymphatic system's role in clearing toxic proteins, and the potential it provides for developing new treatments which are urgently needed by people living with Parkinson's.

"By teaming up with Alzheimer's Research UK we're able to invest more time and resource in order to improve the lives of over one million people across the UK."

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said:

"The causes of Alzheimer's disease are complex. While there are many differences between Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, common biology between both diseases means that research into one condition can provide important insights into the other.

"This new research could shed light on a disease process that holds potential as a target for future drugs, and that could change the course of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

"Forging a collaboration with Parkinson's UK to fund this pioneering research makes sure that world-leading science can lead to discoveries as quickly as possible.

"It's only through research that we will keep people connected to their families, their worlds and themselves for longer."


Notes to editors:

For media enquiries please contact:

Lydia Foster, Media and PR Officer at Parkinson's UK, on or on 020 7963 3945

Edward Pinches, Science Communications Officer at Alzheimer's Research UK, on 0300 111 5 666, or email

About Parkinson's

Anyone can get Parkinson's, young or old. Every hour, two more people are diagnosed.

Parkinson's is what happens when the brain cells that make dopamine start to die. There are over 40 symptoms, from tremor and pain to anxiety. Some are treatable, but the drugs can have serious side effects. It gets worse over time and there's no cure. Yet.

But we know we're close to major breakthroughs. By funding the right research into the most promising treatments, we get closer to a cure every day.

Until then, we're here for everyone affected by Parkinson's. Fighting for fair treatment and better services. Making everyone see its real impact.

We are Parkinson's UK. Powered by people. Funded by you. Together we'll find a cure.

Advice, information and support is available via our website,, or our free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 0303.

About Alzheimer's Research UK

Alzheimer's Research UK is the UK's leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia.

To help make breakthroughs possible, donate today by visiting or calling 0300 111 5555.

We are currently supporting pioneering dementia research projects worth nearly £34 million in leading Universities across the UK.

How can we challenge perceptions of dementia using only an orange? Find out more at and help us share a better understanding about dementia. #ShareTheOrange

UCL - London's Global University

UCL is a diverse community with the freedom to challenge and think differently.

Our community of more than 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems.

We are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world and are one of only a handful of institutions rated as having the strongest academic reputation and the broadest research impact.

We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research - championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors.

For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge.

We were the first in England to welcome women to university education and that courageous attitude and disruptive spirit is still alive today. We are UCL.| Follow @uclnews on Twitter | Watch our YouTube channel | Listen to UCL podcasts on SoundCloud | Find out what's on at UCL Minds | #MadeAtUCL

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.