Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) affects the brain, making it difficult to coordinate movements. The ultimate cause is unknown, but the most obvious effect is that the brain produces less dopamine, and brain cells start to die.

While it is not directly fatal, the side-effects of PD (muscle rigidity, tremors, trouble swallowing, cognitive decline, increased chance of fatal falls, etc) make it more likely you will die early, raising the mortality ratio to twice that of the average person.

Currently, 1.8 deaths out of every 100,000 are PD-related.

It is commonly believed that there is no cure, with most efforts going towards treatment rather than an attempt to excise the disease. Initially, drugs such as Levodopa may be used. Where the drugs don’t work, deep-brain stimulation might be used instead. A recent breakthrough means that this might not require surgery.

Neural transplantation or cell replacement therapy (CRT) is an attempt to replace the neurons that have been lost to the disease, but the results on this method have been spotty up until now. There is a glimmer on the horizon, though – a recent paper showed it was possible to implant new healthy brain cells into affected brains, using an embedding matrix of cartilage to “ease” the implant, letting the new neurons integrate more securely.

CRT is the focus of a lot of research, with genetic modification being one of the avenues explored. A group called “GForce-PD” is working towards using CRISPR technology to correct dopamine production in neural grafts.

While we may not have a cure yet, I have no doubt it is on its way.

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