Dr. Joon Faii Ong is a researcher focused on tremor disorders, including Parkinson’s Disease. This article discusses emerging research on Parkinson’s disease and the future of treatment for this disorder.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes severe motor deficiencies, most notably tremors. It occurs when neurons in the basal ganglia region of the brain start dying. The basal ganglia are responsible for the coordination of movement. Hence their damage often leads to loss of voluntary control over movements with symptoms such as tremors and rigidity.
How is it Treated?
Currently, there are no good therapies that can slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Most treatments are focused on compensating for the symptoms with injections of dopamine to increase tremors and drug therapy to decrease rigidity. In some cases, surgery may be used where the subthalamic nucleus is destroyed to alleviate symptoms.
What are Some Emerging Treatments?
Some therapies that show promise for Parkinson’s disease include gene therapy, stem cell therapy, and a combined treatment of both stem cells and gene therapy. Researchers have been experimenting with using a virus to transport genes into the brain. This allows doctors to re-introduce certain proteins that are lost due to the disease and hopefully improve symptoms. Stem cell research is also showing promise in treating Parkinson’s disease. Stem cells can be injected into the brain, then change into dopamine cells and release dopamine, similar to how neurons function. However, this is a relatively new treatment and doesn’t work in all cases.
Other Promising Research Areas
Other research areas interested include deep brain stimulation to abolish tremors, restoring dopamine production by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for its degradation, and glutamate receptor antagonists to prevent further damage.
What are Researchers Currently Working on?
Currently, researchers are working on stem cell therapy combined with gene therapy and using neurons derived from stem cells for transplantation. In the future, researchers hope to create better therapies using other viruses or by using stem cells to regenerate the neurons killed by Parkinson’s disease. In addition, it will be necessary to determine how much dopamine needs to be released from these neurons to avoid compensating for too much or too little dopamine. But, overall, stem cell research holds a lot of promise in treating Parkinson’s disease.
What do Researchers Think the Future Holds?
Researchers think that gene therapy and stem cell therapy will be used together as a treatment in the future, as it is a continuous process of replacing dopamine neurons with those derived from stem cells. In addition, researchers feel this combined approach can decrease inflammation and improve symptoms even more than using gene therapy or stem cell therapy by itself.
What Can People do to Keep Parkinson’s Disease at Bay?
Some things people can do to decrease the chance of developing Parkinson’s disease are keeping cholesterol and blood pressure down, quitting smoking, and reducing stress. But, unfortunately, these factors have been linked to a higher likelihood of developing the disorder.