Inflammation is a common feature of Parkinson’s, and rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder with heightened levels of inflammation commonly occurring in the tissue surrounding joints in the body. Recently, researchers have asked whether there is an association between Parkinson’s and rheumatoid arthritis: Could people with rheumatoid arthritis be at higher risk of developing Parkinson’s?

Now two recent reports have explored this question.

The first, from a team of researchers – including iLCT committee chairman Professor Patrik Brundin – who used the medical records of 3.6 million people in Sweden, have found that people previously diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis had a 30-50% reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s. They found that the effect was strongest in females.

The second study, conducted by researchers in China, found a similar result: that people with rheumatoid arthritis had a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Both studies suggest that a better understanding of the inflammatory processes in Parkinson’s could help with the development of new therapies for the condition.

Research into the inflammatory processes involved in Parkinson’s is an area of major interest at Cure Parkinson’s. We are co-funding the ‘Azathioprine in Parkinson’s’ (or AZA-PD) study. Azathioprine is a drug that is used to treat inflammation by dampening down the immune system’s response. In the AZA-PD study, researchers at the University of Cambridge are hoping that by reducing levels of inflammation in people with Parkinson’s, they will be able to slow down the progression of the disease.

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