Neurodegeneration and Parkinson’s disease
Recent studies report that: as many as one in two women and one in three men, are likely to develop a neurological condition such as dementia or Parkinson’s. In Parkinson’s disease, there is a loss of neurons involved in producing dopamine, a neurotransmitter substance. The loss of these cells increases over time. The cell deaths result in movement disorders such as; slowness, tremor, rigidity and instability. The full range of Parkinson’s symptoms is complex and doesn’t just include loss of movement. It can include other effects on things like sleep, the digestive system and cognitive issues, such as thinking difficulties or mild memory loss.
The ‘gold standard’ treatment for Parkinson’s is the same today as it was 60 years ago, using dopamine replacement therapies to improve symptoms. Such drugs focus on ‘topping up’ dopamine to help patient’s regain normal movement. Parkinson’s symptoms get worse with time and patients often require more medication at higher doses. This leads to increased side effects such as involuntary movements called ‘dyskinesia.’ Dyskinesia is the most common side effect of dopamine replacement therapies, and for people with severe dyskinesia everyday activities such as eating a meal or doing up buttons can become difficult.
Parkinson’s is what is known as a progressive disease because it gets worse with time. The number of cases in the world is increasing and added to that the cost of treating the disease is expensive, with an annual cost of around three billion pounds in the UK alone. These factors highlight the importance of research into altering the disease rather than simply addressing the symptoms.