News ArchivesRead News
New Treatments Emerging for Parkinson's Disease
Thursday February 21, 2013
Voice of America - As people around the world live longer, maladies of old age are becoming more common. And that has doctors searching for ways to treat or prevent diseases like Parkinson's...a degenerative brain condition that usually develops after age 50, and that's known for its disabling physical tremors. Medications today can treat the symptoms of Parkinson's, but researchers are hopeful that soon, there will be a way to halt its devastating advance.
Sarah Taylor knew something was very wrong, but she never dreamed she had Parkinson's disease. "It was a shock. But it was a relief when I found out what was wrong with me, though," she recalled.
Five years ago, when Taylor came to Medstar Washington Hospital Center for treatment, she could hardly move. "When I first came here, it was awful. It was terrible. I couldn't stand up. I couldn't get up out of the chair. I was struggling," she stated.
Now she has only mild symptoms. She credits her improvement to following Dr. Mark Lin's advice -- from daily exercise to taking medications on a precise schedule.
Parkinson's disease develops when cells that make dopamine, a brain chemical that controls muscle movement, mysteriously die off. Scientists believe genetics could play a role in a small number of Parkinson's cases. A new U.N. study says man-made chemicals in everyday products are to blame. Other researchers say exposure to toxic chemical pesticides could trigger the disease.
Whatever its cause, the best way to control Parkinson's is to treat it as soon as a diagnosis is made -- usually after the onset of tremors and walking difficulties. But that can be too late, according to Dr. Hubert Fernandez at the Cleveland Clinic.
"By this time, though, a considerable amount of degeneration has already occurred in the brain," Fernandez explained. "Ideally, we would like to have a test that is specific for Parkinson's disease. And, ideally, we would like to have that test become positive even before we see the shaking."
There's currently no such test for Parkinson's, but at Northwestern University, researchers think they might have found a way to slow its progression.
"We looked at the cells in the brain that were most vulnerable to the disease. What we saw was they allowed lots and lots of calcium into their cell bodies," said Jim Surmeier, Physiologist who spoke to VOA by Skype.
The calcium eventually killed dopamine-producing cells and triggered Parkinson's symptoms. But the Northwestern University scientists found a drug that limits the brain cells' uptake of calcium, without harmful side effects. In a Skype interview, co-researcher Tanya Simuni told VOA another clinical trial is being planned. "The primary question to be answered in this study is whether the drug is effective in slowing the progression of Parkinson's disease disability," she said.
Current drugs used to control the tremors and walking difficulties work well for about five to ten years. If scientists could develop a new therapy that could double or triple that time, it would enable Sarah Taylor and the ten million other people living with Parkinson's disease around the world to lead much more normal lives.
Recent NewsMay 24 - Survival Rates Differ Widely in Parkinson's, MSA, Lewy Bodies
May 22 - Discovery may offer hope to Parkinson's disease patients
May 15 - Study offers answers on life expectancy for people with Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia
May 5 - Parkinson's in a dish: Researchers reproduce brain oscillations
May 5 - ‘Hunger Hormone’ Could Help Treat Parkinson’s Disease
May 3 - Antibiotic doxycycline may offer hope for treatment of Parkinson's disease
May 1 - Impulse Control Disorders in Parkinson's Disease: Building Physician, Patient Awareness
Apr 28 - Does Parkinson’s disease begin in the gut?
Apr 28 - New empathy-creating digital device could be revolutionary for caregivers
Apr 24 - Treating Depression With Deep Brain Stimulation Works—Most of the Time
Apr 24 - Parkinson’s disease shows links to depression
Apr 21 - TOLEDO Trial: Apomorphine Infusions Reduce 'Off' Time in Parkinson's Disease
Apr 21 - New drug provides long-awaited breakthrough for Parkinson's psychosis
Apr 12 - Obstructive Sleep Apnea Affects Cognition in Parkinson's Disease
Apr 11 - Seattle boxing gym giving hope to Parkinson's patients
Apr 10 - A new rhythm
Apr 10 - Brain cells reprogrammed to make dopamine, with goal of Parkinson's therapy
Apr 6 - FDA allows marketing of first direct-to-consumer tests that provide genetic risk information for certain conditions
Apr 5 - Combatting the isolation of young onset Parkinson's disease
Apr 1 - The Kid is Alright