I am sure that most of us know someone who has it whether they be a friend, relative, or even a significant other. This disease can start out very slowly and is most often seen in older people, but in some cases can affect those in the “prime of their life.” I have some friends that are in various stages of the disease, but all of them know that the disease will progress and that, as yet, there is no cure. One of the first symptoms to appear is usually involuntary twitching or shaking often of the head or the hands. By now I’m sure you know the affliction is called Parkinson’s Disease (PD).
As with most diseases the name comes from the person who first described it. Back in 1817 James Parkinson, a British Apothecary published his “Essay on the Shaking Palsy.” It was first called paralysis agitans and that is Latin for shaking palsy. It wasn’t until 1865 that the name “Parkinson’s Disease” was coined by William Sanders.
According to ParkinsonsDisease.com there are five stages of the disease. “In stage one, the earliest stage, symptoms of PD are mild and only seen on one side of the body (unilateral involvement), and there is usually minimal or no functional impairment.” ” The symptoms at stage one may include tremor, such as intermittent tremor of one hand, rigidity, or one hand or leg may feel more clumsy than another, or one side of the face may be affected, impacting the expression.”
“Stage two is still considered early disease in PD, and is characterized by symptoms on both sides of the body (bilateral involvement) or at midline without impairment to balance.” “Symptoms of PD stage two may include the loss of facial expression on both sides of the face, decreased blinking, speech abnormalities, soft voice, monotone voice, fading volume after starting to speak loudly, slurring speech, stiffness or rigidity of the muscles in the trunk that may result in neck or back pain, stooped posture, and general slowness in all activities of daily living.”
“Stage three is considered mid-stage and is characterized by loss of balance and slowness of movement. Balance is compromised by the inability to make rapid, automatic and involuntary adjustments necessary to prevent falling, and falls are common at this stage. All other symptoms of PD are also present at this stage, and generally diagnosis is not in doubt at stage three.” “An important clarifying factor of stage three is that the patient is still fully independent in their daily living activities, such as dressing, hygiene, and eating.”
“In stage four, PD has progressed to a severely disabling disease. Patients with stage four PD may be able to walk and stand unassisted, but they are noticeably incapacitated. Many use a walker to help them. At this stage, the patient is unable to live an independent life and needs assistance with some activities of daily living. The necessity for help with daily living defines this stage.”
“Stage five is the most advanced and is characterized by an inability to rise from a chair or get out of bed without help, they may fall when standing or turning, and they may freeze or stumble when walking. ” “At stage five the patient may also experience hallucinations or delusions.” Some patient’s symptoms do get worse, but some never progress to stage five.
According to the National Institute on Aging “Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a disease associated with abnormal deposits of protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain. These deposits, called Lewy bodies, affect chemicals in the brain whose changes, in turn, can leads to problems with thinking, movement, behavior, and mood. Lewy body dementia is one of the most common causes of dementia.” “There are two diagnoses of of LBD – dementia with Lewy bodies (LBD) and Parkinson’s disease dementia. “The earliest signs differ but reflect the same biological changes in the brain. Over time, people with Lewy bodies or Parkinson’s disease dementia may develop similar symptoms.”
So far the medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease are Levodopa and Carbidopa. Levodopa (Known as L-dopa) is the most commonly prescribed medicine for Parkinson’s. Those drugs have been used for some time now with varying results. New research may have discovered something that could slow down or even stop the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
From Medicalexpress.com comes an article published January 28, 2020 titled “Discovery could help slow down progression of Parkinson’s disease.” Written by Jillian Prior from Rutgers University, the article explains that scientists at Rutgers and Scripps Research worked together to discover a small molecule that could be the key to slowing down or even stopping the progression of Parkinson’s disease. The article explains that Matthew D. Disney, chemistry professor at Scripps Research in Florida, devised a method that matches RNA (ribonucleic acid – a messenger carrying instructions from DNA for controlling the synthesis of proteins) structure with small molecules or drug-like compounds. They would then target messenger RNA that codes for a-synuclein which causes Parkinson’s disease.
Quoting M. Maral Mouradian, a Parkinson’s disease expert: “Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, and it is truly a devastating disease. For the first time, we discovered a drug-like compound that has the potential to slow down the disease before it advances through an entirely new approach.” This new technique would work on patients in the earliest stages of the disease before the more serious symptoms appeared. “Additionally, this can benefit another devastating disease that also has a-synuclein clumps, known as Dementia with Lewy Bodies.” The scientists believe their breakthrough might also benefit patients with other neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.
Another research team has a revolutionary idea expressed in an article published in medicalxpress,.com January 27, 2020 titled “Parkinson’s disease may start before birth.” They have theorized that people who develop Parkinson’s disease before age 50 may have been born with disordered brain cells that went undetected for decades. The article quotes a co-author of the study “Young-onset Parkinson’s is especially heartbreaking because it strikes people at the prime of life,” said Michele Tagliati, MD, director of the Movement Disorders Program, vice chair and professor in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai. “This exciting new research provides hope that one day we may be able to detect this disease in at-risk individuals.” Tagliati was a co-author of the study with Clive Svendsen, Ph.D., senior study author and director of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute and professor of Biomedical Sciences and Medicine at Cedars.
According to Dr. Svendsen “What we are seeing in this new model are the very first signs of young-onset Parkinson’s. It appears that dopamine neurons in these individuals may continue to mishandle alpha-synuclein over a period of 20 or 30 years, causing Parkinson’s symptoms to emerge.” Testing a series of drugs they found that one, PEP005, reduced the elevated levels of alpha-synuclein in both the dopamine neurons in the dish and in laboratory mice. They say the next step will be find a way to deliver PEP005 directly into the brain to treat or possibly prevent young-onset Parkinsons. The hope is that this could, sometime in the future, lead to the development of a treatment that would also work for Parkinson’s disease in the elderly.
As long as the research continues to discover new methods of treatment there is still a reason for those suffering from disease to have hope of an eventual cure.
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