The cutting edge of Parkinson’s Disease

BBC Radio 4’s medical programme Case Notes recently had a special on Parkinson’s Disease which explored the condition and the work on the latest treatments – including brain surgery and cell transplants.

Parkinson’s Disease is heavily linked to the loss of dopamine neurons in the nigrostriatal pathway in the brain (there’s a good diagram here).

This causes movements difficulties (including slowness of movement, stiffness and tremor) as well as cognitive difficulties which can impair reasoning, concentration and memory.

Because the disorder is linked to the loss of cells in quite a focused area of the brain, it is been the subject of much interest by medical researchers wanting to ‘replace’ these cells by implanting stem cells into affected brain area with the hope that they’ll turn into new dopamine neurons.

So far, the trials have shown mixed results, although the research is still in the early stages.

Because of the use of stem cells, Parkinson’s Disease has become a political battleground, especially in the USA, where stem cell research is considered much more controversial than in other parts of the world.

Link to Case Notes on Parkinson’s Disease (with audio).
Link to NIH information on Parkinson’s Disease.

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