Hey guys, Jarred back again with another blog post. But first, an update. I recently secured myself a WEX placement at a GP surgery, which will be coming up towards the start of May! I look forward to recounting my experience and anything I learnt there for you, so look forward to that blog. However, today’s blog topic will be (if you didn’t guess from the title) about Parkinson’s Disease. This is a disease that I am familiar with due to my Nan suffering of it throughout her life, so is why I am writing about it. I’ll start with a brief overview: what it is and it’s symptoms, go on to explain in detail about it and why it is currently incurable and finish with the developments in the field. Here we go…
To start with, a definition: Parkinson’s Disease- Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition causing problems in the brain whilst progressively worsening over time. In other words, it is a disability which damages the brain throughout life. Parkinson’s is a disease that affects up to 5 million people worldwide, hence is a great concern and high priority to researchers everywhere. The illness manifests itself in a variety of symptoms -all of which relate to the mobility of a person- with common examples being reduced movement (e.g. through stiffness and slowness), shaking (tremors) and even smaller symptoms (usually to start with) like reduced size of handwriting. These symptoms will in most cases reduce the quality of life in many sufferers points of view, as they debilitate and affect them. Examples such as Helen Mirren (whose friend suffered) who said,”The difficulty facing people with it is that they never quite know ‘can I or can’t I do this today'” and Michael Fox who said,”I don’t have a choice whether I have Parkinson’s or not, but surrounding that non-choice is a million other choices I can make…” show the widespread effects of Parkinson’s and how it effects those that it does.
What causes Parkinson’s Disease? Well, the reason for the symptoms of it are due to the death of some very significant cells in the brain; the dopamine producing cells (found in the Substantia Nigra). The dopamine produced by these cells is extremely important in that they coordinate movement of the body from the brain by acting as messengers. Therefore, if the cells producing this are dying, then less dopamine is produced and movement is limited. It is unknown what damages and kills the cells, but the lack of them is the problem, so is what is trying to be solved. Whilst there are drugs and treatments -such as supportive therapy, levodopa and deep brain surgery- which have a chance of reducing symptoms, the actually illness is currently incurable, due to the unknown cause of death, and tricky position of the problem. Hence, extensive research is being done into cures. New and advancing developments are arising which show promise in curing the incurable. Recently, scientists have found that some cells already present in the brain can be programmed using a cocktail of drugs into becoming near-identical cells to dopamine producing cells. This is still in the early stages though, and although shows promise may not be viable. However, one of the scientists, David Dexter, who discovered this said, “If successful, it would turn this approach into a viable therapy that could improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s and, ultimately, lead to the cure that millions are waiting for.” So could this advancement be viable… Another recent advancement is the finding of 2 current drugs (an antidepressant and trial cancer drug) which slow the process significantly. This is being hailed a major breakthrough with Professor Mallucci reporting, “We could know in 2 to 3 years whether this approach can slow down disease progression, which would be a very exciting first step in treating these disorders.”
In conclusion, I believe that in the future, this currently incurable disease will have been advanced in hugely as a well-researched and important field in Biology and Medicine. The prospects of a cure are greatly increasing, and this field will become a must watch.
Thanks for spending time reading this, and I hope you enjoyed and now feel educated,