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Parkinson’s Pump Undergoes Experimental Study

Friday December 26, 2003

GDNF Drug May Help Reverse Symptoms

Portland, OR, December 23, 2003(Ivanhoe Broadcast News ) - As many as 1 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease. There are several treatment options for the symptoms of Parkinson’s, but they also come with side effects. Now doctors may have found a way to not only treat the symptoms, but also reverse the disease.

Fourteen years ago, Greg Moore was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The medication he takes for the disease can only do so much.

"Turning over in bed is very difficult for me to do," he said. "Going through a stack of papers is a very difficult thing to do."

Two months ago, he became the first person in the United States to join an experimental study on Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Kim J. Burchiel placed two catheters under Moore’s skin that run down his chest and attach to pumps implanted in his abdomen. For some patients in the study, the pumps deliver a placebo. For others, it’s a substance called glial- derived neurotrophic factor -- or GDNF.

"In animal models, GDNF seems to be very good at reversing or, I don’t want to use the word cure, but correcting Parkinsonism," said Dr. John G. Nutt, a neurologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

The drug seems to coax dying dopamine nerve cells back into production. In a small trial in England, patients reported dramatic improvement in movement and coordination.

"They got to the point where they were having much less problems with their Parkinsonism. Some have reduced their drugs markedly as well," Nutt said.

Moore doesn’t know yet if he received the real drug, but he’s hopeful.

"It’s nothing more than a possibility right now, but it’s very exciting to me," he said.

The trial will last six months and involves only 35 patients worldwide. Risks of the surgery include infection and bleeding. The risks of GDNF are not known, but it is a substance produced naturally by the brain.

If you would like more information, please contact: The Parkinson Center of Oregon (503) 494-5285

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