What the future holds for Parkinson's
Tuesday, April 11th, 2017 | Blog
Parkinson’s is a neurological disease that progressively limits bodily functions. The disease causes cell death in an area of the brain called substantia nigra, an area which plays an important part in reward and movement. This cell damage results in the brain producing less dopamine, an enzyme in the brain that acts as a neurotransmitter, and as such it plays a vital role in the process of movement, the limited ability to send movement processes from the brain to the rest of the body is what causes many of the symptoms present in Parkinson’s.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s are often life changing and, as the disease progresses, those diagnosed with it end up requiring constant care. The symptoms (as listed by the NHS) include, but are not limited to:
Involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body (tremor)
Stiff and inflexible muscles
Balance problems, leading to an increased risk falls
Loss of sense of smell (anosmis)
Problems sleeping (insomnia)
You can find the full list, along with other information here.
There are currently drugs that help limit the symptoms of Parkinson’s, something that is accomplished through reintroducing dopamine into the brain. Unfortunately, as the disease develops, the drugs need to be taken more regularly and the side effects become more of an issue. One of the more common drugs taken by those diagnosed with Parkinson’s is Levadopa. The medication alleviates symptoms by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain, but side effects can include nausea, vomiting and a low blood pressure.
Unfortunately, the current medications that are available only delay or limit symptoms, rather than curing the disease itself. There are multiple charities and foundations working towards eradicating the degenerative neurological disease, along with countless studies and data showing where the future of the treatment is going - we’ve listed a few of those studies in this article. It’s important to note that these are studies that aim to reverse or stop the disease, rather than cure the symptoms.
TDO & KMO Limitation
Scientists at Leicester University have successfully reversed the symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease in fruit flies by limiting two enzymes in the brain. A special drug limits Kynurenine-3-monooxygenase (KTO) and tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase (TMO), two enzymes that play a large part in the development of degenerative neurological diseases. Limiting them can actually reverse the damage caused by Parkinson’s. What makes this study even more exciting is that fruit flies are genetically similar to humans and surprisingly, their brains are anatomically similar to our own.
You can find our more about TDO and KMO here.
Parkinson’s can develop due to a multitude of reasons; it can be a person's weight, age, diet and even the area they live in. For some people it’s a genetic fault that they were born with, meaning they are more likely to develop the disease. A study conducted a few years ago found a correlation between the LRKK2 gene and a decline in motor neuron functions.
Targeting the LRKK2 gene, and the neuron pathways associated with it, using deacetylase inhibitors actually reversed the effects of Parkinson’s. The drugs work by restoring functionality to the neuron pathways, therefore repairing the brain's ability to send electrical impulses. The study has only been performed on flies so far, but the treatment could have life changing effects on those born with the faulty LKKR2 gene.
You can find out more about deacetylase inhibitors here.
A specially modified ultrasound machine that was recently trialled in England, managed to effectively reduce the symptoms of people that had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The treatment method, named “MRI-guided focused ultrasound for brain”, involves sending heat energy to the areas of the brain affected by Parkinson’s. The procedure is performed under a local anesthetic and involves no form of invasive surgery. The trials have been a success so far as as those that took part regained some use of their motor functions.
To find out more about the ultrasound therapy, please follow the link.
The future of Parkinson’s is starting to look a lot more hopeful, but with an ageing population the need for funding and research is now more urgent than ever. If you would like to donate or simply find out more about Parkinson’s, please visit the Parkinson’s UK website.