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Parkinson's Disease Information

  • Parkinson's disease (paralysis agitans or PD) is a movement disorder often characterized by muscle rigidity, tremor, a slowing of physical movement (bradykinesia), and in extreme cases, a loss of physical movement (akinesia). The primary symptoms of Parkinsons are due to excessive muscle contraction, normally caused by the insufficient formation and action of dopamine, which is produced in the dopaminergic neurons of the brain. Parkinson's disease was first formally recognised and its symptoms documented in 1817 in An Essay on the Shaking Palsy by the British physician Dr James Parkinson; the associated biochemical changes in the brain of patients were identified in the 1960s...
  • Parkinson disease affects movement (motor symptoms). Typical other symptoms include disorders of mood, behavior, thinking, and sensation (non-motor symptoms). Individual patients' symptoms may be quite dissimilar; progression is also distinctly individual. There are four major dopamine pathways in the brain; the nigrostriatal pathway, referred to above, mediates movement and is the most conspicuously affected in early Parkinson's disease. The other pathways are the mesocortical, the mesolimbic, and the tuberoinfundibular. These pathways are associated with, respectively: volition and emotional responsiveness; desire, initiative, and reward; and sensory processes and maternal behavior. Reduction in dopamine along the non-striatal pathways is the likely explanation for much of the neuropsychiatric pathology associated with Parkinson's disease.

    The most widely used form of treatment is L-dopa in various forms. L-dopa is transfomed into dopamine in the dopaminergic neurons by L-aromatic amino acid decarboxylase (often known by its former name dopa-decarboxylase). However, only 1-5% of L-DOPA enters the dopaminergic neurons. The remaining L-DOPA is often metabolised to dopamine elsewhere, causing a wide variety of side effects. Due to feedback inhibition, L-dopa results in a reduction in the endogenous formation of L-dopa, and so eventually becomes counterproductive.

    Deep brain stimulation is presently the most used surgical means of treatment.

    Gene therapy involves using a harmless virus to shuttle a gene into a part of the brain called the subthalamic nucleus (STN). The gene used leads to the production of an enzyme called glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), which catalyses the production of a neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA acts as a direct inhibitor on the overactive cells in the STN.

    GDNF infusion involves, by surgical means, the infusion of GDNF (glial-derived neurotrophic factor)into the basal ganglia using implanted catheters. Via a series of biochemical reactions, GDNF stimulates the formation of L-dopa. GDNF therapy is still in development.

    In the future, implantation of cells genetically engineered to produce dopamine or stem cells that transform into dopamine-producing cells may become available. Even these, however, will not constitute cures because they do not address the considerable loss of activity of the dopaminergic neurons.

    Nutrients have been used in clinical studies and are widely used by people with Parkinson's Disease in order to partially treat Parkinson's Disease or slow down its deterioration. The L-dopa precursor L-tyrosine was shown to relieve an average of 70% of symptoms.[14] Ferrous iron, the essential cofactor for L-dopa biosynthesis was shown to relieve between 10% and 60% of symptoms in 110 out of 110 patients. Also used alongside existing treatments is a Parkinson's Disease supplementthat contains both of these substances and all the other nutrients required for dopamine formation. More limited efficacy has been obtained with the use of THFA, NADH, and pyridoxine - coenzymes and coenzyme precursors involved in dopamine biosynthesis. Vitamin C and Vitamin E in large doses are commonly used by patients in order to lessen the cell damage that occurs in Parkinson's Disease. This is because the enzymes Superoxide Dismutase and Catalase require these vitamins in order to nullify the superoxide anion, a toxin commonly produced in damaged cells. Coenzyme Q10 has more recently been used for similar reasons.

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