News / Health

New Treatments Emerging for Parkinson's Disease

New Treatments Emerging for Parkinson's Diseasei
X
February 21, 2013 1:08 PM
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. As VOA's Carol Pearson reports, 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.
Carol Pearson
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.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Peter Denos from: Norwalk, Ohio
February 25, 2013 8:16 AM
I'm wondering what the new drug is and if it is available at the Cleveland Clinic? I'm wondering if it will help someone with advanced parkinsons like my brother?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs