Parkinson's Disease Research Group

Picture relating to Parkinson's Disease Research

Group leader(s): Professor Karen Morrison and Professor Carl Clarke


Parkinson’s Disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder with key symptoms of tremor, stiffness and slowness.  Our laboratory research group focuses on molecular genetic research, aiming to understand underlying disease mechanisms. We are closely linked with the Clinical Trials Unit which has developed large national trials of best medical, surgical and other healthcare inputs in the disease.

Our research group

Our clinical research in Parkinson’s disease is undertaken via the Clinical Trials Unit, University of Birmingham.  It involves large pragmatic studies aiming to determine current best therapeutic practice in the disease, recruiting patients and carers from throughout the United Kingdom.  PD MED is the largest study ever of medical treatment in the disease, whilst PD SURG has reported the results of early versus delayed surgical treatment.  Studies of intervention with Occupational and Physiotherapy are ongoing in PD REHAB, as is 

PD COMM, a pilot study of speech therapy in the disease.

Our laboratory work on Parkinson’s is underpinned by our large bank of DNA samples, PD GEN, from patients with the disease recruited into the various trials and carer control samples.  These anonymised DNA samples are linked to epidemiological data and prospectively collected clinical data.  We undertake molecular genetic studies, aiming to identify genetic variants that increase susceptibility to developing Parkinson’s disease, or those variants that cause the less common familial forms of the disease.

A key activity is in collaborating with groups nationally and internationally in large genetic association studies, to gain robust information about genetic influences either on disease causation, course or response to specific treatments.  The ultimate aim is to develop effective therapies, targeted appropriately to minimise side-effects.

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Current Projects

  • PD MED:  A large randomised assessment of the relative clinical and cost-effectiveness of classes of drugs for Parkinson's disease
  • PD REHAB:  A randomised controlled trial to assess the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy in Parkinson's disease 
  • PD COMM Pilot: A pilot study to evaluate the feasibility of a full scale trial on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of speech and language therapy for people with Parkinson's
  • PD GEN:  A Parkinson's disease DNA Bank
  • Genome wide association studies in sporadic Parkinson’s disease
  • Association studies of specific genetic variants in sporadic Parkinson’s disease
  • Studies of C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat numbers in sporadic Parkinson’s disease and investigation of association with dementia
  • Studies of C9ORF72 in multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy

Recent Publications

Sharma M, Ioannidis JP, Aasly JO, Annesi G, Brice A, Bertram L, Bozi M, Barcikowska M, Crosiers D, Clarke CE, Facheris MF, Farrer M, Garraux G, Gispert S, Auburger G, Vilariño-Güell C, Hadjigeorgiou GM, Hicks AA, Hattori N, Jeon BS, Jamrozik Z, Krygowska-Wajs A, Lesage S, Lill CM, Lin JJ, Lynch T, Lichtner P, Lang AE, Libioulle C, Murata M, Mok V, Jasinska-Myga B, Mellick GD, Morrison KE, Meitnger T, Zimprich A, Opala G, Pramstaller PP, Pichler I, Park SS, Quattrone A, Rogaeva E, Ross OA, Stefanis L, Stockton JD, Satake W, Silburn PA, Strom TM, Theuns J, Tan EK, Toda T, Tomiyama H, Uitti RJ, Van Broeckhoven C, Wirdefeldt K, Wszolek Z, Xiromerisiou G, Yomono HS, Yueh KC, Zhao Y, Gasser T, Maraganore D, Krüger R; on behalf of GEOPD consortium (2012) A multi-centre clinico-genetic analysis of the VPS35 gene in Parkinson disease indicates reduced penetrance for disease-associated variants. J Med Genet, 49(11):721-726

Sharma M,  Ioannidis  JPA,  Aasly JO, Brice A,  Van Broeckhoven C,  Annesi G,  Bertram L,  Bozi M,  Crosiers D,  Clark CE,  Facheris MF,  Farrer M,  Gispert S,  Auburger G,  Vilarino-Guell C,  Garraux G, Hadjigeorgiou GM,  Hicks AA, Hattori N,  Jeon BS,  Lesage S,  Lil CM,  Lin J-J, Lynch T,  Lichtner P,  Lang AE, Mok VCT, Jasinska-Myga B, Mellic KD, Morrison KE, Opala GM, Pramstaller PP, Pichle I, Park SS,  Quattrone A, Rogaeva EA, Ross OA, Stefanis L,  Stockton JD,  Satake W, Silburn P, Theuns J, Tan EK, Toda T, Tomiyama H, Uitti RJ, Wirdefeldt  K, Wszolek ZK, Xiromerisiou G, Yueh KC,  Zhao Y, Gasser T, Maraganore DM, and Krüger R (2012) Large-scale replication and heterogeneity in Parkinson disease genetic loci. Neurology, 79(7):659-667

Charlesworth G, Gandhi S, Bras JM, Barker R, Burn DJ, Chinnery PF, Gentleman SM, Guerreiro R, Hardy J, Holton J,  Lees A,  Morrison KE, Sheerin U-M, Williams N, Morris H, Revesz T, Wood N (2012) Tau acts as an independent genetic risk factor in pathologically proven Parkinson’s Disease. Neurobiology of Ageing, 33(4):838.e7-11

Clarke CE, Patel S, Ives N, Rick C, Wheatley K, Gray R (2011). Should treatment for Parkinson's disease start immediately on diagnosis or delayed until functional disability develops? Movement Disorders 26(7):1187-1193

UK Parkinson’s Disease Consortium; Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium 2, CC Spencer, V Plagnol, A Strange, M Gardner, C Paisan-Ruiz, G Band, RA Barker, C Bellenguez, K Bhatia, H Blackburn, JM Blackwell, E Bramon, MA Brown, D Burn, JP Casas, PF Chinnery, CE Clarke, A Corvin, N Craddock, P Deloukas, S Edkins, J Evans, C Freeman, E Gray, J Hardy, S Hunt, J Jankowski, C Langford, AJ Lees, HS Markus, CG Mathew, MI McCarthy, KE Morrison, CNA Palmer, L Peltonen, M Prinen, R Plomin, S Potter, A Rautenen, SJ Sawcer, Z Su, RC Trembath, AC Viswanathan, HR Morris, P Donnelly, NW Wood (2011) Dissection of the genetics of Parkinson’s disease identifies an independent association 5’ of SNCA and multiple associated haplotypes at 17q21.  Human Molecular Genetics 20: 345-353


Principal Investigators
Professor Karen Morrison
Professor Carl Clarke
Dr Zsuzsanna Nagy

Internal Collaborators
Prof Keith Wheatley - School of Cancer Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences
Dr Neil Thomas - School of Health and Populations Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences 
Ms Cally Rick - University of Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit, College of Medical and Dental Sciences

External Collaborators
Ms Rachel Hornabrook - University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, UK
Dr David Nichol - University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, UK
Dr Alistair Lewthwaite - University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, UK
Dr Camille Carroll - Plymouth University, UK
UK Parkinson’s Disease Genomics Consortium
International Parkinson’s Disease Genomics Consortium
GEO-PD consortium – Genetic Epidemiology of Parkinson’s Disease