Is There a Cure to Parkinson’s? Harvard Medical School Finds Out

Parkinson disease is recognised as an enormous problem because it is associated with ageing till now. With the increased life expectancy factor prevailing in India, it is likely to create a huge Parkinson disease burden. Moreover, there are young adults (in the 30s) being diagnosed with the disease.

More worrisome is the fact that the damage caused by the disease, with the patient showing symptoms like hand tremors, stiffness and an unsteady gait development, can be looked down upon the society. Mental illness in India is a big taboo in the society as people are less aware of the clinical facts. Parkinson patients also go other mental health problems like depression.

Only if it is diagnosed in time, can the medicines, which help in managing and controlling the symptoms can help the patient personally. However, it is a great challenge again as people generally associate Parkinson with ageing and hence, treat it as a natural health problem as a sign of ageing.

What is Parkinson?

Parkinson is a disease which affects your body movement. It occurs because of the problem in the certain nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine. The important chemical which sends a signal to the brain to control body movement defines dopamine. Overall, it monitors the smooth movement of the muscles, or in other words, it helps you move the muscles swiftly and a lack of dopamine, thus affects the way we move.
An individual suffering from Parkinson is not able to command own muscles because of the nerve cells, which communicate with the brain, break down. Parkinson only gets worst with the time as it is a progressive disease.

What Causes Parkinson?

The exact cause of Parkinson is not known. The scientific community is still investigating its cause and so far, ageing and the environment poison has been identified as two near plausible medical theories. Another reason under investigation is abnormal genes. However, the exact cause remains inconclusive.

Is There a Cure to Treat Parkinson?

There is still no cure for Parkinson but there is a way to control its symptoms. Levodopa (also called L-dopa) is the drug prescribed for reducing the impact of the symptoms. There are still some concerns in using the drug, for example, a high dose can cause minor health problems like vomiting or nausea and confusion.

However, a bigger concern arising out of long-term therapy using Levodopa is Dyskinesia. Ironically, it leads to abnormal, uncontrolled, and involuntary movement.
Another symptom control treatment is deep brain stimulation, in which electrical waves are released in the exact portion of your brain which controls movement. Brain surgery is considered if the drugs are not able to control the severe symptoms. However, it still doesn’t control the disease with the only positive sign being that it can reduce the patient’s dependency on drugs.

What is α-synuclein?

Alpha-synuclein is a protein profuse in the human brain. It exists in tiny bits in the muscles and tissues of the human body. Inside the brain, it is deposited in neurons, present in specialised structured called presynaptic terminals (a neuron which receives neurotransmitters to bind with the signalling neuron).

Alpha-synuclein or α-synuclein protein function is not yet known. Researchers on Parkinson disease are interested in it because of it an integral part of Lewy bodies, which is a disease. The cause of Lewy body is an abnormal collection of a- synuclein in the brain. It affects the body movement, behaviour and thinking. Therefore, it a major hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.

The medical community is currently working to produce drugs which reduce the collection of a-synuclein that kill brain cells.

Neurologist and genomicist Clemens Scherzer of Harvard Medical School in Boston and the team are reported to be finding a new way to treat Parkinson, which is to produce a drug, to cut down the production of α-synuclein.

The New Experiment

To find effective compounds for the said drug, the team has developed human nerve cells in the lab and experimented further, using different medications, vitamins and other molecules to see if it can bring down the generated a- synuclein.

So far, three drugs have shown promising results and that includes, salbutamol, a drug used to treat asthma and relaxing the airways. These drugs appear to loosen the DNA containing packed α-synuclein gene coils, and further notice if these genes are still active.

Still, in a nascent stage, the team of researchers have made no headway pertaining to making this experiment useful for the patients. The next possible step is inducing the experiment in clinical trials. In other words, using salbutamol or related drugs inside the brain to get Parkinson (impact) benefits. But, as implied by neuroscientist Andrew West of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, these set of drugs are not fit to enter the human brain. So, there is still time to be prepared for clinical trial experiments.

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