01:55pm Wednesday 03 June 2020

Family hopes for cure for debilitating Parkinson's disease

One of his daughters, Assistant Professor Karen Upton-Davis, is a researcher and lecturer at The University of Western Australia’s School of Population Health.

Assistant Professor Upton-Davis said that her father, the late Mr John Upton, bequeathed the sum to the Parkinson’s Association of Western Australia in the hope of progressing knowledge of Parkinson’s disease and ultimately relieving the suffering of those affected by it.

Mr Upton was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 49 and lived until he was 81.  The south-west dairy farmer was rocked by the diagnosis of Parkinson’s, Assistant Professor Upton-Davis said.

“Then his characteristic resilience, sense of humour, and country-boy non-complaining perseverance rose to the surface.  He continued to play lawn bowls and game fish until very recent years, and until the end of his life was able to walk, talk and feed himself.  He was an inspiration to others in the way he mentally handled his condition.”

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological condition.  It is Australia’s second most common neurological condition after dementia and affects about four out of every 1000 Australians.  The incidence increases to one in 100 beyond the age of 60.

It has been given a high profile in recent years by celebrities including actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammad Ali.

It is caused when brain cells that produce the messenger chemical dopamine become severely depleted and the nerve pathways which coordinate body movements fail to connect with each other properly.  In healthy people, the pathways help make the body’s muscular movements smooth and regular.

Several groups at UWA are undertaking different research into improving the lives of the sufferers of Parkinson’s disease, from using the party drug ecstasy to develop medicines that curb involuntary movements, to developing stem cell replacement therapies.

Media references

Assistant Professor Karen Upton-Davis (UWA School of Population Health)  (+61 8)  6488 2993
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs)  (+61 8)  6488 3229  /  (+61 4) 00 700 783

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