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World Parkinson's Disease Day 2019: New treatment options you can look forward to

With the advancement of science and technology, many new treatments may be available soon for the Parkinson’s disease. © Shutterstock

Parkinson's Disease is a debilitating neurological condition, which has very few treatment options currently. But a lot has happened in this field through the last couple of years. While celebrating World Parkinson's Disease Day today, we tell you about the possible remedies for the condition which may arrive soon, as a boon.

Roughly 10 million people suffer from Parkinson's Disease (PD), a neurodegenerative disease that comes only second to Alzheimer's disease. This incurable disease was first mentioned by a British physician named James Parkinson in his research paper. There he described it as 'the shaking palsy'. PD is an umbrella term for a cluster of motor or movement disorders. It manifests itself through unstable gait, slow motion, tremour in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head and stiffness of the limbs and trunk. These primary symptoms intensify with time making it difficult for patients to walk, talk or perform daily functions.

This neurological condition is caused by the death or impairment of nerve cells that produce dopamine, a brain chemical responsible for ensuring smooth movement. New research have also found another trait of PD patients: Lost nerve endings leading to the loss of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter which functions as a chemical messenger in a crucial part of the nervous system, responsible for the regulation of pulse and blood pressure. This might be the explanation to all the non-motor symptoms of PD patients.

In India, patients living with Parkinson s Disease have only two options: Oral drugs for the early stage of the disease or Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), an expensive method. However, with the advancement of science and technology, many new treatments may be available soon for this debilitating condition. On this World Parkinson's Disease Day, we take you through some of them.

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New drugs

Scientists have come up with a new drug, infused with vitamin A, for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease. According to them, vitamin A, found in fruits and veggies, converts into a chemical called retinoic acid when the body breaks it down. This process is important for the development of the nervous system, thanks to retinoic acid, which has the capacity to put a brake to nerve damage and boost your neuron count. Apart from Parkinson's Disease, this new-found drug can also be beneficial for the patients of Lou Gehrig s disease, which weakens the muscles of the arms, legs, mouth and respiratory system.

Also, a Bengaluru-based hospital, named Vikram Hospital, has come up with a new medicine for the condition in association with UK-based speciality pharmaceutical company Britannia Pharmaceuticals. It is known as Apomorphine . This drug works by boosting dopamine production in the brain neurons. Available in the forms of injections and infusion pumps, Apomorphine is ideal for patients who have begun to experience motor fluctuations. This medicine is not available as an over-the-counter drug and has to be administered under the monitoring of a Movement Disorder Specialist at specialised centres.

Cell replacement therapy

Cell replacement may play an increasing role in alleviating the symptoms such as movement problems and memory loss of Parkinson s Disease (PD), researchers say.

Recent strides in stem cell technology mean that quality, consistency, activity, and safety can be assured, and that it is possible to grow essentially unlimited amounts of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the laboratory for transplantation, said a study, published in the Journal of Parkinson s Disease.

However, there a long way to go before reaching any conclusive decision about the effectiveness of this therapy for Parkinson's Disease, observe researchers. Areas that need further understanding include what, where, whom to and how to deliver the cells.

Molecule Therapy

A new molecule-based therapy may help in healing Parkinson's patients. According to a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, a molecule, named MCC950, works by cooling the brains on fire . It turns down inflammatory activities caused due to immune cells in the brain called microglia and allows neurons to function normally.

A key immune system target known as NLRP3 was found that lights up in Parkinson s patients. The signals were found in the brain and even in the blood. Study authors found that if MCC950 is given orally once throughout the day, it blocks NLRP3 activation in the brain and prevents the loss of brain cells, resulting in markedly improved motor function. The researchers hope to carry out human clinical trials of drugs based on this molecule by 2020.

Garment technologies to prevent falls

Frequent falls, owing to faulty gait and posture are common among people with Parkinson's Disease. A team of researchers are in the process of developing smart garment technologies that would prevent falls in people with this neurological condition. The researchers from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and University of New South Wales (UNSW) are set to make StandingTall-PD, a neuro-rehabilitation programme that aims to prevent freezing-of-gait and falls, and enhance patients independence. The programme uses visual, audio and haptic sensory cues to help rewire the parts of the brain that control walking and prevent falls. The combination of visual, audio and sensory elements helps to form new connections in the less affected parts of the brain, leading to improved walking ability, the researchers said.

Existing dopamine therapies offer benefit in treating motor dysfunction in Parkinson s but may not alleviate gait and balance challenges, said Jamie L. Hamilton, Associate Director at the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) in the US.

The new programme has the potential to become an affordable option to address gait and balance issues and improve overall quality of life for people with Parkinson s, added Hamilton.

For the study, researchers will give participants a mat with colour-coded stepping targets, a pair of Sensoria Smart Socks, an iPad and phone.

The programme can help enable participants to self-manage and monitor their own progress via an app on their phone. The app can also trigger stimuli during everyday activities, such as vibration in their Smart Socks, if they are in danger of experiencing freezing-of-gait, falls or if they show signs of shuffling feet.

In addition, clinicians can monitor participants progress remotely and adjust the programme to provide ongoing and personalised continuity of care.

Coffee Compounds

Combining two compounds found in coffee can act as therapeutic against Parkinson s Disease, say researchers. The study, led by a team from the Rutgers University, found that caffeine, which traditionally has been credited as coffee s special protective agent, together with another compound found in coffee beans waxy coating, slowed down brain degeneration in mice.

The new coffee bean compound called EHT (Eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide) was found to protect the brains of mice against abnormal protein accumulation associated with Disease.

EHT is a compound found in various types of coffee, but the amount varies. It is important that the appropriate amount and ratio be determined so people do not over-caffeinate themselves as that can have negative health consequences, said lead author M. Maral Mouradian, Professor at the varsity.

Prior research has also shown that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson s Disease.

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team found that EHT and caffeine alone were not effective. However, when given together, they boosted the activity of a catalyst that helps prevent the accumulation of harmful proteins in the brain. Current treatments address only the symptoms of Parkinson s Disease but do not protect against brain degeneration, according to the study.

"Further research is needed to determine the proper amounts and ratio of EHT and caffeine required for a protective effect in people," said Mouradian.

(With inputs from IANS)

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