The UK’s Medical Research Council is sinking £6 million into three human clinical studies that it hopes will shed new light on Parkinson’s disease, addiction and reduced immunity in the elderly. 

The ambitious research programmes, which have won the funding under the Council’s three-year, £60-million Experimental Medicine Challenge initiative, should collectively provide a clearer insight on how disease takes hold and progresses within the body.

This, the Council notes, could not only throw up new opportunities for developing medical interventions that address these conditions, but also, working backwards from the findings of these human studies, help researchers design better lab experiments at the start of the pathway.

Researchers at University College London will look at whether reducing ‘background’ inflammation in the elderly could help boost their immunity to infections and improve the effectiveness of vaccines, scientists at Imperial College London will investigate whether appetite suppression with naturally-occurring gut hormones could also cut cravings for addictive substances, while UCL researchers will also evaluate the role of a genetic mutation in the development and progression of Parkinson’s.

“The more we discover about disease the more we know how and why different patients respond in different ways to different diseases and drugs: unlocking a new age of preventative and personalised medicine,” commented Life Sciences Minister George Freeman, also noting that on the back of the NHS's “unique strengths as a national healthcare system”, the UK is “leading the world in this exciting field” and “attracting billions of investment in new treatments” to benefit patients.