Will a possibility to cure Parkinson’s Disease ever arise?

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,
Cheers, Jarred.

The beginning…

Hey guys, Jarred here! A bit about me first: I’m an aspiring medical student currently in year 12, studying Chemistry, Biology, History and Maths. My aim is in the title, I would love to become a Doctor and help out the world! Therefore, this blog is going to be my journey, from start to finish, documenting any thoughts I have on topics or advancements in medicine and the opportunities and experiences I have during WEX. I hope you readers enjoy my blog, and enjoy following me on my adventure, thanks guys!

Today, the topic is Immunology. Recently, in Biology, we have been studying about the immune system and disease. This has got me interested, and I decided to do a bit of research! Here’s what I found…

To start with, a definition: Immunology- The branch of medicine regarding and dealing with immunity. This will therefore encompass many things e.g. the immune system, diseases and pathogens and advancements in medicine such as vaccines. During my research, I found out how the immune system works, which briefly, is due to the antigens (proteins on pathogen membrane surfaces) being recognized by white blood cells, followed by the Primary Immune response encompassing T cells, B cells and antibodies, which will lead to the destruction of the pathogen and the immunological memory. This therefore can lead to many advancements or problems. The main problem around at the moment in my opinion is the Influenza virus.  “The unique nature of the influenza virus is it’s great potential for change, for mutation.” This quote from Margaret Chan (Chinese WHO director) reveals to us the major problem that makes influenza such a deadly and concerning disease. Due to antigen shift, the influenza pathogen is extremely hard to map, and hence hard to prevent or vaccinate against, as different strains appear constantly. Therefore, at the moment, the best we can do is to vaccinate the most vulnerable against the pre-existing strains, and attempt to find a solution to the problem.  Recent advancements have included the creation of a quadrivalent influenza vaccine which has further prevented influenza followed by a serious advancement in the manufacture of the vaccine. This is a recombinant influenza vaccine, that no longer requires fertilized eggs, thus speeding up the production, and an intradermal vaccine (less antigen required) which will spread the vaccine around, further helping prevent influenza, as it also presents a serious problem in effectiveness globally as confirmed by “kids die of influenza, both in the United States and Japan, and if you give the drug to people at risk of dying, there will be people who die who got the drug” by Robert Nelson. Finally, the influenza virus can be dangerous when it undergoes a mutation causing a species jump. An example is the Avian flu (H5N1) scare of the early 21st century and late 90s. The bird strain of the virus mutated and spread to humans, thus causing many deaths before a vaccine was created. Hence, since an influenza virus molecule can do this, it prevents a huge risk.

In conclusion, I believe that immunology is going to be a serious part of medicine during the years to come, with growing priority being given to preventing and protecting against communicable diseases such as the influenza virus. Therefore, advancements in this area will be extremely proliferant, and hence an amazing part of Medicine!

Thanks for spending time reading this, and I hope you enjoyed and were educated, thanks Jarred.