Archive for the ‘Parkinson’s’ Category

Parkinson’s linked to vitamin D

October 14, 2008


Scientists are testing whether vitamin D supplements can ease symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

A US team found 55% of Parkinson’s patients had insufficient levels of vitamin D, compared to 36% of healthy elderly people.

However, the Emory University researchers do not yet know if the vitamin deficiency is a cause or the result of having Parkinson’s.

The study appears in the journal Archives of Neurology.

Parkinson’s disease affects nerve cells in several parts of the brain, particularly those that use the chemical messenger dopamine to control movement.

The most common symptoms are tremor, stiffness and slowness of movement. These can be treated with oral replacement of dopamine.

Previous studies have shown that the part of the brain affected most by Parkinson’s, the substantia nigra, has high levels of the vitamin D receptor, which suggests vitamin D may be important for normal functions of these cells.

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China Still Offers Unproven Medical Treatments

January 5, 2008

BEIJING – They’re paralyzed from diving accidents and car crashes, disabled by Parkinson’s, or blind. With few options available at home in America, they search the Internet for experimental treatments — and often land on Web sites promoting stem cell treatments in China.

They mortgage their houses and their hometowns hold fundraisers as they scrape together the tens of thousands of dollars needed for travel and the hope for a miracle cure.

A number of these medical tourists claim some success when they return home:

Jim Savage, a Houston man with paralysis from a spinal cord injury, says he can move his right arm. Penny Thomas of Hawaii says her Parkinson’s….

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Possible Parkinson’s trigger identified

January 3, 2008

LONDON (Reuters) – A glitch in the way cells clear damaged proteins could be the trigger for the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, researchers said in a finding that could lead to new treatments for the incurable condition.

The U.S. team focused on a process called autophagy in which cells digest and recycle damaged molecules, including proteins, that develop as cells grow older. This system essentially renews cells to keep them functioning properly.

This mechanism is also important for nerve cells in the brain where defective proteins can kill cells and cause the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as tremors, said Ana Maria Cuervo, a cell biologist who led the study.

“We have found in Parkinson’s there are problems in removing abnormal proteins,” said Cuervo of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

The finding could potentially lead to drugs to treat the symptoms but not cure the disease, which affects more than a million patients in the United States alone and is marked by the death of brain cells that produce dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or message-carrying chemical, associated with movement.

Cuervo had previously shown how mutant forms of a protein called alpha-synuclein — found in a tiny percentage of Parkinson’s patients — blocked the breakdown of substances and prevented cells from clearing damaged proteins.

In the study in The Journal of Clinical Investigation on Wednesday, the team showed how in the majority of patients dopamine modifies normal proteins to act like the mutated ones to trigger tremors and other symptoms.

“What we have found is dopamine modifies alpha-synuclein that really resembles the mutation,” Cuervo said. “That is why they have the same symptoms.”

Problems in this process have also been linked with other neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease, though the specific mechanisms that cause problems in those conditions are different, she said.

Cuervo said a drug to fix the breakdown in Parkinson’s patients was years away because it would take researchers time to understand fully how the process worked.

“This is not something that is going to lead to a treatment tomorrow,” she said. “The hope is within five years we can get companies to find a drug able to activate this system.”

(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Robert Woodward)