According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease yearly and about seven to eight million are living with it worldwide. Parkinson’s Disease is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the average age for diagnosis is 62 there are about four percent who are diagnosed before the age of 50. Not included in those worrisome stats are the thousands of cases that go undetected.
For all those suffering there might be a glimmer of light because recently scientists at Harvard University have reported that they have found some hopeful signs from an experimental study into treatment for Parkinson disease. The researchers transplanted tissue from fetal dopamine cells into the brains of patients with Parkinson’s.
Years after the surgery those who had received the transplant reported having 50% fewer symptoms. Also, for those that had been using medication to help in the treatment of their symptoms and had found that the drugs were no longer effective also experienced remarkable improvements after having had the surgery.
The scientist believe that because the cells that they had transplanted remained healthy for at least 14 years after the study recipients got them, that this could be an effective treatment, casting doubt into earlier beliefs that these cells would have become diseased. "We have shown in this paper that the transplanted cells connect and live well and do all the required functions of nerve cells for a very long time," Ole Isacson, a Harvard neurologist and director of the Neuroregeneration Research Institute has said.
“The transplanted dopamine neurons showed a healthy and non-atrophied morphology at all time points,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in the journal Cell Reports. Looking at the brains post-mortem of study participants the scientists found that the transplanted dopamine neurons resisted decay as the patients got older.
This may not be a cure but it certainly could possibly point scientist in the right direction for treatment.