Prof. Gaëtan Garraux, from the Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Liège, supported the launch of iPrognosis in Belgium and is our latest ambassador! Learn more about his interest in Parkinson’s disease and his thoughts on future research opportunities in the interview.
Can you tell me a little bit about Parkinson’s Disease in Belgium?
There is no registry of the disease in Belgium, but there are more than 30,000 people affected according to current scientific estimates. As age is recognized as a major risk factor for the disease, the scientific community expects an epidemic in the coming decades. This will have a major socio-economic impact, given the disease progression over several (dozens of) years and the lack of curative treatment available.
You have decided to help launch the iPrognosis mobile app in Belgium. What potential do you see in digital technologies to help in the early diagnosis of the disease?
We don’t have tools to early, reliably diagnose the disease or objectively measure changes in function after diagnosis.
The iPrognosis mobile app is part of a list of technologies that could potentially help achieve these goals.
What are the next challenges we will face in Parkinson’s research?
Patients and the general public expect early diagnosis and a treatment that will allow to at least influence the progression of the disease. These are daunting challenges for a disease, that probably has multiple causes, that disrupts brain function many years before tremors or other movement disorders are noticed by patients or their surroundings.
In the absence of a reliable and early diagnostic test, the current strategy is to identify people who have not yet developed the characteristic symptoms but who have a heightened risk profile for the disease: for example, those carrying a gene involved in the disease, or those with a number of foreshadowing signs, including very animated, even violent, dreams at night. At present, this strategy only concerns a small number of people who will eventually develop the disease.
Using digital technologies accessible to the general public could make it possible to identify more people at risk. However, a long process of validation is essential to avoid any deviation in the use of these new technologies for diagnostic purposes.
An early diagnosis really only makes sense for patients if we can also offer them a treatment to slow down or even stop the progression of the disease. All attempts to this end have failed so far, but the latest scientific advances aiming at a personalized treatment, specific to each individual and his/her “profile”, carry great hopes, as has been the case in the field of oncology.