Here’s a great, recent video that addresses the question, “Where are we now with Parkinson’s research?” The author/speaker, Simon Stott, is a post-doctoral researcher at Cambridge University, where he focuses on Parkinson’s disease. I found this video on his website, The Science of Parkinson’s Disease, which is both highly technical as well as interesting and mostly accessible for the average lay person. (Thanks to fellow World Parkinson Congress blogger, Benjamin Stecher, who pointed me in this direction – and has a great blogsite to boot.)
Here’s the video:
Simon begins with an overview of PD, then describes what a cure would entail:
- A disease-halting mechanism. Researchers are still not sure exactly how PD progresses, but clinical trials are investigating this on various fronts.
- A neuroprotective agent, which would bring moribund brain cells back to life. Again, trials are underway with a variety of drugs.
- A cell replacement therapy, achieved by injecting new cells (embryonic stem cells or cells from some other source) into the brain.
On a related note, this weekend’s New York Times magazine has an article by Siddhartha Mukherjee titled “A Failure to Heal,” which describes the frustration and disappointment many researchers feel when a promising new drug trial fails to provide positive results.
The article mentions that a new drug for Parkinson’s was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration; it doesn’t name the drug, though. However, two paragraphs describe Oliver Sacks and the experience he relates in his book Awakenings, in which patients who had lived in a near-catatonic state for years because of encephalitis, suddenly snapped out of their catatonia when Sacks treated them with the anti-Parkinson’s drug L-dopa. The patients began walking and talking again, and Sacks was overwhelmed by the miracle of it all.
The miracle didn’t last, however. After a while the L-dopa stopped working, the patients reverted to their catatonic state, and eventually they died.
All of us with Parkinson’s, and our care givers, hope against hope that a cure for PD will be found soon, or that new treatments will come along in the next year or so to make the disease more manageable. However, I get the sense that really dramatic changes are a decade or more away. In an interview Benjamin Stecher had with Simon Stott, Simon (who looks very young in his pictures) says the following about Parkinson’s research:
“I am relatively optimistic, I think that within my daughter’s lifetime we are going to make significant progress to the point where this condition won’t be such a problem for them.”
That sounds like decades to me. And in the interim? I’ll take my Sinemet (L-dopa) and do what only I can do: work out at the gym, swim open water competitions, write poetry, climb mountains, learn how to play ping-pong, and eat healthy food.