Life for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) was largely untenable until the late 1960’s discovery of dopamine replacement therapy (levodopa). Following the introduction of levodopa there were worldwide reports that began to surface about previously institutionalized patients who were waking up and returning home. A few years following levodopa’s introduction however, a new reality began to uncomfortably set in.
National Parkinson Foundation's blog
There has been a recent and evolving media blitz concerning the potential use of medical marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol, THC) among the Parkinson’s disease (PD) community. All of the attention to marijuana has been largely a result of multiple states passing legislation to legalize and to regulate the drug, or to alternatively make it available for select medical diagnoses.
In November 2011 we wrote about an important phenomenon called levodopa phobia, or avoidance of dopamine as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Many Parkinson’s disease patients and family members have been unnecessarily alarmed by the continuing reports that Sinemet and/or Madopar (European Sinemet) may accelerate disease progression, and that doses and drug intervals should be limited.
Recent research has indicated that there may be unexplored symptomatic benefits by using light therapy to treat Parkinson’s disease patients. This “light” approach is particularly appealing in Parkinson’s disease because patients commonly suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, sleep disorders, as well as depression—and all have been reported to potentially improve. In this month’s What’s Hot Column, we explore the scientific underpinnings of the brain’s natural sleep-wake cycle; called the circadian rhythm.
Currently, approximately 10% of Parkinson’s disease cases have been associated with gene defects. These changes in the DNA have allowed researchers to hone in on the mechanisms that may be responsible for this devastating disease. Scientists around the world have become adept at preparing animal models of Parkinson’s disease by using the observed changes in the DNA occurring in some human cases.
In 2011, the FDA approved a diagnostic test for Parkinson’s disease. The DaTscan (Ioflupane I 123 injection, also known as phenyltropane) is a radiopharmaceutical agent which is injected into a patient’s veins in a procedure referred to as SPECT imaging. DaTscan, when it was approved, was considered an important addition to the armamentarium of the bedside clinician. In 2011 I wrote a What’s Hot column on DAT scanning, and this month I will update that posting and bring everyone up to date on the impact of this test.
There may be good news for Parkinson's disease (PD) patients suffering from low blood pressure, dizziness, and passing out (syncope), as a new drug recently received FDA approval (Northera, Droxidopa). In this month's What's Hot Column we will update the topic of dizziness and passing out in Parkinson's disease (from the July 2011 What's Hot Column), and we will also detail what we know about the new drug (Northera) which has been specifically designed to combat the symptoms of low blood pressure.
One of the common dreams shared by Parkinson’s disease patients around the globe is the possibility of living a pill free existence. One cannot blame the Parkinson’s disease patient or caregiver for dreaming big. A single day in Parkinson’s disease shoes is likely to reveal the need for dozens of pills administered day and night. In many cases, pills are taken as frequently as every hour or two.
The last 20 years Parkinson’s disease researchers have sought to identify a compound that could potentially slow disease progression. One candidate has been inosine, a drug that elevates blood uric acid levels. Uric acid elevation has been associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, but also with a higher risk of the development of kidney stones and gout.
There are many great mysteries and unanswered questions surrounding the potential causes of Parkinson’s disease. One of the most important and most studied is, “why are only a minority of cases caused by a single genetic abnormality?” One famous researcher from California coined the phrase, “the genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger” (Judith Stern, UC Davis). Many Parkinson’s disease researchers have refocused their efforts to attempt to identify potential environmental triggers.