Parkinson’s Disease is mot typically found in persons above the age of fifty, but it can also affect individuals below that age. In cases where the sufferer is at a younger age, it is generally due to genetic inheritance.
What is Parkinson’s disease? This is a disorder that affects the central nervous system and the brain in particular, severely affecting an individual’s ability to coordinate their movement. In most cases, tremors and sometimes impaired speech are visible signs of Parkinson’s. The condition results from a deficiency in the chemical known as dopamine. Deficiency alone will not cause Parkinson’s; another chemical known as acetylcholine is also found in higher levels in Parkinson’s sufferers. Acetylcholine is responsible for contraction of muscles while dopamine reverses that process. This shift in the delicate balance between the two chemicals causes muscles to contract excessively.
There are many predisposing factors for this condition. One of the most prevalent causes (apart from environmental factors) is genetic mutation. In this case, an individual inherits genetic disorders. Having parents or relatives who have the disease does not necessarily imply that you will get the disorder as well, but you stand a higher chance or are more prone to contracting the condition, especially if you are subjected or exposed to pesticides or other chemicals.
There are several treatments for Parkinson’s. These include medications, some of which inhibit the production of acetylcholine while others increase the production of dopamine. Surgical methods may also become necessary where the medication fails. Recently, gene therapy for Parkinson’s has emerged as a treatment method.An important aspect of Parkinson’s gene therapy is that it has few side effects. The gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease is done on a particular region of the brain known as subthalamic nucleus. This is the region that becomes overactive thus blocking signals responsible for regulating and coordinating the movement of muscles. Due to a deficiency of the brain chemical called dopamine, there is a loss of a neurotransmitter known as GABA, thus resulting in increased activity in subthalamic nucleus.
Gene therapy for Parkinson’s encodes the gene for the enzyme that is responsible for the production of GABA in the subthalamic nucleus. Studies have shown that gene therapy for Parkinson’s works by calming the region. In addition, it allows for a smoother flow in the transmission of messages throughout the brain, allowing the signals responsible for coordination of movement of muscles to be carried out via the closest thalamus.
Gene therapy for Parkinson’s may be effective for even a year after the treatment has been administered. There are virtually no side effects to this process unlike other forms of treatment, particularly surgical processes like palidotomy and thalamotomy.