Parkinson’s Disease. Can It Be Stopped? Human Trials Now.

This entry was posted by Friday, 22 November, 2013
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Funny Cartoon About Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s Treatment Now In Human Trials

 

 

PARKINSON’S DISEASE SUCKS

Don’t get Parkinson’s Disease.

Here’s why.

Parkinson’s disease is when dopamine production in the brain falls off.  Dopamine, a “neurotransmitter”, helps to pass signals along the length of the nerves. When dopamine levels go down, people start to lose control over their movements.  Arms and legs become balky and hard to control. Even speaking can be hard. There’s other stuff too. Confusion, incontinence – a long list.  There are things you can do to make it more tolerable but there’s no cure.

Life’s a good thing. Even when it’s a miserable version of itself. But Parkinson’s does nothing to enhance it.

For about a decade, it has been possible to implant an electronic device, a deep brain stimulator or  (“pacemaker”) . The device stimulates the nerves – the ones that get screwed up in Parkinson’s –  getting them to perform better. The problem, (okay – other than the fact that this is brain surgery) is that the stimulator only helps for a while. Most people only see an improvement for a couple of years. Then it “wears off”.

NOT THE ANSWER. BUT SOMETHING.

Here’s the thing. Dr. Craig Van Horne (College of Medicine, University of Kentucky) has added something.  He takes a “spare” nerve from the ankle and implants it in the brain when the pacemaker goes in. Why do that? Because peripheral nerves can release neurotrophic growth factors – grow juice for nerves – which brain cells can’t. That’s why brain cells don’t regenerate. Dr Van Horne’s strategy, if it works in humans, would give the damaged nerves in the brain a chance to repair themselves.

What should we look for? Will the presence of a peripheral nerve with its release of growth factors give the deep brain stimulator more “oomph”? Will its benefits last longer? Is it possible that maybe the implanted nerve could replace the whole deep brain stimulator doohicky, allowing it to be turned off at some point?

We may not find out all this stuff right away. This is a “phase 1” trial. The main thing is to make sure the procedure to stick the nerve in there is practical and safe. However, if this trial is successful, there will be another.

It’s slow and frustrating. Too incremental. Besides. How could this ever be the ultimate answer. Brain surgery?

But it’s a step.

– – – – –

The drawing is mine

4 Responses to “Parkinson’s Disease. Can It Be Stopped? Human Trials Now.”

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