The 4th triennial World Parkinson Congress (WPC) takes place September 20-23 in Portland, Oregon, and is expected to host over 4,000 attendees from around the world.
To find out more about what attendees can expect to learn at the meeting, Neurology Advisor spoke with A. Jon Stoessl, CM, MD, FRCPC, FAAN, FCAHS, vice president of the World Parkinson Coalition and co-chair of the WPC steering committee. Dr Stoessl is also professor and head of neurology at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health, and co-director of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.
“The unique aspect of this meeting is that it brings together patients, caregivers, family members, health professionals, and scientists – so it is quite a unique mix,” said Dr Stoessl. While the unique format of such a diverse mix of conference attendees may initially seem intimidating, it offers learning opportunities that are not possible in other settings.
Dr Stoessl noted specific topics that he is particularly looking forward to, including the potential benefit of immune therapies to treat Parkinson’s disease (PD) and recent findings on leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), the most common genetic cause of PD. The gut microbiome is another hot area of research that will be covered, with findings suggesting that the “contents of the intestines may actually contribute to disease, and there is emerging evidence that this may be particularly important in Parkinson’s,” according to Dr Stoessl.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are also a popular subject of current investigations that will be presented at WPC. Because these pluripotent stem cells are derived from adult cells, they preclude any of the ethical issues associated with the use of embryonic stem cells while still having the same “potency to differentiate into any tissue in the body… and PD is the prototype neurodegenerative disease that will most likely benefit from this scientific breakthrough,” a recent paper stated.1 The interest in iPSCs is “not only in the development of new treatments, but also as a window into studying disease mechanisms,” Dr. Stoessl said.
There will be workshops on the latest in PD management, small-group roundtable discussions with PD experts, and information about clinical trials and cutting-edge technology.
In addition, the WPC steering committee chose 12 “Hot Topics” from 600 submitted abstracts representing the latest research in PD, which will be presented each morning before the plenary session. The range of topics includes: the possible effects of influenza and the influenza vaccine on PD risk; genetic risk factors; new biochemical approaches to slow disease progression; and augmented reality technology using Google Glass. One presentation, for example, will explore the use of storybooks to discuss PD with children, and another will focus on the effects of exercise on patients with PD.
The 12 Hot Topics are often “presented by young investigators who may not otherwise have the opportunity to speak in front of such a large audience,” explained Dr Stoessl. ”It’s great just to hear about their emerging work and what they’re excited about,” he said.
Xiao B, Ng HH, Takahashi R, Tan E-K. Induced pluripotent stem cells in Parkinson’s disease: scientific and clinical challenges. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2016; doi:10.1136/jnnp-2015-312036.