The View from Puncheon Creek: AN EXCITING TIME TO HAVE PARKINSON’S

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I imagine at first glance of my title you went “huh?” however it is true.

Research spurred by celebrities such as Michael J Fox who have raised millions for research and shined a spotlight on this illness, much has been learned about how this condition starts and progresses. Parkinson’s is a very complex illness and has defied being cured or even slowed down for centuries.

Thanks to the heightened interest by researchers in the possibility of understanding diseases of the brain like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease much has been learned. Add in the massive influx of funding raised by the Michael J Fox Foundation and other interested groups and you have the recipe for excitement. 

Since my diagnosis, the advancement of knowledge for this condition has sky rocketed. Science has uncovered much of the mysteries of the pathology of Parkinson’s. Though there are many contributing factors including genetics that play a role in the development of this disease the latest thinking is at its heart Parkinson’s is an auto-immune syndrome. This means that for some reason bodies own defense system attacks specific areas of the brain leading to Parkinson’s. Research indicates that Parkinson’s starts in the gut and travels via the Vagus nerve to the brain. The Vagus nerve connects the brain to the stomach. A key player is a protein known as alpha synuclein which miss folds in Parkinson’s patients inflaming neuron’s and leading to their death. Specifically, neurons that manufacture an amino-acid called levodopa which regulates movement.

Armed with a new understanding of Parkinson’s pathology researchers have opened many new avenues of research targeting ways to slow down Parkinson’s, or better alleviate symptoms and yes, even find a cure. This is where the excitement lies. For the first time in human history there is a real possibility of finding a cure for this condition. There are hundreds of clinical trials, many drugs in the pipeline, novel new ways of treating this disease that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. One of the most recent involves transplanting special pig brain cells that manufacture levodopa into human sufferers of Parkinson’s. Great advancements have been made in STEM CELL technology which makes it a viable avenue of research for a cure for Parkinson’s. Another technology that shows great promise is Monoclonal Anti-bodies which have the potential to cure the disease. Thanks to modern imaging technology an old technology has been made new again. I’m speaking of focused beam ultra sound which uses high intensity focused ultra sound waves to perform surgery without making any incisions. Though tried more than 50 years ago and all but abandoned due to the inability to precisely target where the beams would focus. That problem has since been solved by addition of MRI Imaging technology to the focus beam technology allowing extreme precision. This system has received FDA approval for treatment of Essential Tremor and is in trials for Parkinson’s. There are hundreds more avenues of research all showing hope and promise to once and for all climate this disease from the human race. It is indeed an exciting time because it is a time of hope.