News ArchivesRead News

Michael J. Fox and Parkinson’s Disease

Thursday June 30, 2005

Exact causes still a mystery
Mary Kugler

About - Between one and one-and-a-half million Americans are affected by Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the central nervous system. "Parkinson’s" is the overall term for at least six different categoriesof the disorder, which usually affects people age 50 or older.

About 10-20% of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before age 50; only half of these people are diagnosed before age 40. This is called juvenile Parkinson’s. Michael J. Fox, diagnosed at age 30 years old in 1991, is in this category.

Possible causes People with Parkinson’s disease have a shortage of a chemical that affects movement (called dopamine) in their brains.

Treatment of Parkinson’s disease has traditionally been with medication that can be made into dopamine in the brain (Sinemet), or by drugs that seem to affect the use of dopamine in the brain (Symmetrel, Eldepryl). Newer drugs, called dopamine agonists (Parlodel, Permax, Mirapex, Requip), activate dopamine-sensitive brain cells.

Surgical treatments One technique being investigated is high-frequency stimulation of a part of the brain called the subthalamic nucleus. This is known as deep brain stimulation. Brain tissue transplants using genetically-altered cells, fetal tissue, or pig tissue introduce cells to produce dopamine. New techniques for thalamotomy and pallidotomy, which destroy the "trouble-causing" cells in the brain using an electrode, are being developed.

Michael J. Fox has established The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. He has spoken out in favor of stem cell research and has worked tirelessly to raise money for research. The Foundation Web site states, "Fox wholeheartedly believes that if there is a concentrated effort from the Parkinson’s community, elected representatives in Washington, DC, and (most importantly) the general public, researchers can pinpoint the cause of Parkinson’s and uncover a cure by 2010."

Recent News

Nov 22 - A caregiver's story: Living and loving through the slow process of dying
Nov 19 - Testosterone cause of sex differences in the occurrence of Parkinson’s disease, new research suggests
Nov 18 - New strategy reduces side effects in Parkinson's treatment
Nov 14 - Opinion: The never-ending tests of Parkinson's disease
Nov 13 - Parkinson’s disease: A new tool for diagnosis
Nov 10 - Parkinson's Disease Drug May Be Useful For Delaying, Preventing Blindness In Older Population
Nov 9 - Microsoft VP’s diagnosis fuels employees’ heartfelt efforts to help others
Nov 6 - Lewy body dementia: unrecognized and misdiagnosed
Nov 5 - Gait difficulties in Parkinson's linked to new blood vessels in brain
Oct 30 - Special Section: Enabling Technologies for Parkinson’s Disease Management
Oct 27 - Scientists discover a 'switchboard' of molecules that protect against Parkinson's disease
Oct 26 - Dancing improves mobility and quality of life in people with Parkinson's
Oct 23 - The amazing woman who can smell Parkinson’s disease — before symptoms appear
Oct 20 - Personal Essay: The deviousness of dementia
Oct 19 - Mechanism that 'melts' protein clumps may lead to new Parkinson's treatments
Oct 19 - Researchers find that stem cell treatment may reduce cognitive impairment related to dementia with Lewy bodies
Oct 17 - Cancer Drug Helps Parkinson's Patients
Oct 12 - Researchers identify immune gene that can prevent Parkinson's disease and dementia
Oct 12 - Blog Post: An Alert, Well-Hydrated Artist in No Acute Distress
Oct 7 - This month, a brain surgery will be broadcast on live TV for the first time ever