Parkinson's Disease Information



Order the Parkinson's Disease Guidebook
Arm yourself with the most comprehensive information available. Printed version $29.95. Electronic version $24.95. Plus free updates on the latest research for 1 year.
June 23, 2009

Parkinson's Disease Research

Parkinson's Disease research has made leaps and bounds in our understanding of the disease. The findings have helped patients across the world manage the disease.

Currently a lot of the research is concentrated on trying to identify and locate the genes (or combination of genes) that lead to Parkinson's Disease. To date mutations have been found in four genes that are associated with Parkinson's Disease. The four genes are: alpha-synuclein, parkin, ubiquintin carboxyl terminal hydrolase, SCA2 and DJ-1. These mutations have been found to have a role in abnormal protein processing in cells. Researchers have found that these mutations lead to cell death. This cell death extends to neurons that release dopamine.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a form of medical imaging that allows a 3D image of your brain to be produced. This technique has been key in investigating brain structure in Parkinson's Disease research.  It is also allowing us to investigate the structures in the brain where dopamine is produced. Once this has been done, gene therapy should be able to be used more effectively.

Parkinson's Disease research has improved our knowledge and ability to use gene therapy to alleviate symptoms. Glial-derived neutrophic factor (GDNF) has been found to protect dopamine releasing neurons. Trials in humans have been limited, but trials in primates showed that GDNF stimulates the body to produce GDNF naturally. Researchers have also been working with introducing vectors that carry the GDNF gene in monkeys. They have found substantia nigra (dopamine producing) cell death decreases. In other research, gene therapy, using stem cells, was found to reduce some cardinal Parkinson's Disease symptoms, mainly, dyskinesias (the abnormal involuntary movements).

A drug company is currently developing a method in which the dopamine-producing enzyme is replaced in patients. The gene coding for this enzyme is carried in a virus vector, the virus then delivers this gene to the part of the brain that controls movement. Once clinical trials commence PET technology will be necessary to track the movement and actions of the gene and the proteins it produces.

Stem cell research has been a hot topic in the science and political world for several years now. While the ethics around it are being debated, research, although limited continues in some laboratories. There have been some successes in which symptoms have been reduced in rats. Stem cells have the capability of transforming into any other cell in the body. Researchers believe that transplanting embryonic stem cells into target cells in Parkinson's Disease patients may allow regeneration of dopamine producing cells.

With diseases such as Parkinson's researchers also can test existing hypotheses in their real life setting. Rather than hauling in a large number of research subjects to be studied under strict condition, and evaluating a small set of variables, these case studies allow a whole spectrum of phenomena to be studied from a small number of cases. Case studies say what happened in this particular case and why? They question what we already know about the disease and does our prior knowledge make sense in this case, if not, why. In the light of each case we are able to find deficits in our knowledge, and learn what we need to study in the future.

A lot of progress is being made in Parkinson's Disease research. We have come a long way, and have developed drugs and other therapies that help to relieve some of the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease. Although no cure has been found yet, Parkinson's Disease research continues to make headway.

Contact Resources Privacy Policy

The content of this web site is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice. More information.

2002-2012©Parkinson's Disease Information.