Patients suffering from the debilitating effects of Parkinson's Disease are being invited to take part in a revolutionary new treatment trial in Birmingham.
Neurologist Dr Carl Clarke is leading Birmingham City Hospital's three-year study, which will involved 740 patients across 14 countries.
The aim is to delay the onset of a distressing side-effect of the degenerative disease, known as dyskinesia.
Dyskinesia means that for an hour or so after traditional medication is taken, and then as it begins to wear off, the sufferer writhes and twists uncontrollably. The new treatment will include an additional drug which makes the medication - called levadopa - work for longer and more evenly.
Dyskinesia occurs in about 50 per cent of those who have been treated for five years or more for Parkinson's Disease.
Parkinson's Disease is caused by a decrease in the number of cells that produce the brain transmitter chemical dopamine. It acts as a messenger between the nerve cells that regulate muscle movement and, as levels of dopamine fall, co-ordinated muscle movements become difficult.
"The levadopa therapy we give consists of three lots of dopamine, released quite quickly, and this forms peaks and troughs of dopamine in the brain," said Dr Clarke, Reader in Clinical Neurology at City Hospital and Birmingham University.
After several years of taking the drug, he said, its beneficial effects began to "wear off" more quickly, making the peaks and troughs more pronounced. It is hoped the new combination, called Stalevo, may prevent these problems.