Say Parkinson’s and all you get in reply is a blank expression. Say Muhammad Ali and there is a flicker of recognition. Yes. Mohammed Ali- the great boxer suffered from Parkinson’s disease for 30 years. Even while lighting the Olympics torch in1996, one could see the tremors and painfully slow movements frame by frame.
Over 10 million people in the world currently suffer from Parkinson’s disease. It is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder which affects most elderly people with age above 45. Parkinson’s disease is caused by loss of dopamine secreted by the central nervous system. People with Parkinson’s disease suffer from tremors, stiffness, slow mobility, body imbalance and shuffling gait followed by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease as secondary symptoms. The causes of this disease are mostly genetic with other contributing factors being head injury, stress, chemicals etc.
Parkinson Disease stages
People with Parkinson’s disease exhibit different symptoms at different stages
- Stage1- Mild tremors. Daily routine is not affected.
- Stage2- Difficulty in walking normally. Daily routine slows down.
- Stage3-Slow movement and loss of balance. Even daily activities like eating, bathing and dressing require assistance
- Stage4- Even walking becomes difficult. The patient cannot be left alone.
- Stage5- The individual is often bedridden and unable to stand or walk. A caregiver is a must for all daily activities.
Effects of Parkinson’s disease
People with Parkinson’s disease suffer many side-effects as it progresses. The effects of Parkinson’s disease are as follows-
- Depression- Almost 50% of the patients with Parkinson’s disease suffer from depression. The loss of mobility is a big blow to their self-esteem causing sadness, fear and anxiety.
- Digestive disorders- Digestion slows down causing constipation and bowel irritability.
- Sleeplessness – 75% of the Parkinson’s patients have difficulty in sleeping.
- Urinary problems – Incontinence and difficulty in urination are common.
- Difficulty in eating– Trouble in chewing and swallowing persist and may often lead to choking
- Loss of Balance and Frequent Falls– Falls become more frequent due to slow and impaired movement and loss of balance.
- Pain– Pain in joints develops due to lack of normal movement
- Hallucinations– Parkinson’s patients hallucinate often with vivid and unreal dreams.
Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease cannot be totally cured but only controlled. The treatments for Parkinson’s Disease include
A natural chemical called Levodopa is the most effective medication for Parkinson’s disease when administered with Carbidopa either orally or by infusion. Dopamine agonists are used to mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain. COMT inhibitors block the enzyme which breaks down dopamine and hence brings relief.
2.Deep Brain surgery
Deep Brain surgery is only for patients responding to levodopa. It is used in extreme cases where the patients have unstable responses to levodopa medication.
Stem cell-based cell replacement therapies for Parkinson’s disease
Stem cell-based cell replacement therapies mark the new dawn of treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is caused by the inability of the Central Nervous system to regenerate neurons. stem cells have pluripotency which is the ability to multiply and create any cell line. Using stem cells dopaminergic neurons or neurons releasing dopamine are synthesized within the body.
Human embryonic stem cells have the greatest potential to create dopaminergic neurons due to their inherent ability for the repeated division and cell multiplication. If using embryonic stem cells seem difficult, there is still hope using iPSC Stem cells.
Man-made or Induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPSC) are the new harbingers of hope for Parkinson’s patients. Since they are synthesized in a laboratory by reprogramming an adult or mature cell to an embryonic state, they are safer and successful.
Parkinson’s disease is not so incurable as it seems. The advent of stem cell-based replacement therapies spell hope and success for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.