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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs