Meet The Contributors

Mandy ~ I am a stay at home mom who has been on a medical roller coaster ride going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what is wrong with me. All of the doctors agreed that there is something medically wrong with me, they just don't know what... Basically, just about every time that I go to the doctor, I wind up with a new diagnosis. It is very frustrating. I hope that some of these links will maybe help you or lead you in the right direction.

Ferd ~ I have had the honor and pleasure of practicing Internal Medicine for over 25 years. I am now enjoying sharing my thoughts and experience in the blogosphere in a number of ways. I am grateful to Mandy for including me on her excellent blog, Texas Medical Freak!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Parkinson's Disease ~ Back to the Future

This is my first guest post for Mandy, the original Texas Medical Freak! I'm honored to be a member of Friends of Mandy! - I was trained at the Mayo Clinic, and have been practicing Internal Medicine in Toledo, Ohio for 25 years. I am the creator of the Crazy Medical Cases blog. ~~~

People suffering with Parkinson's Disease want to go back to a time when their brains made enough dopamine, a neurochemical that helps transmit electric impulses between nerve cells. It is possible that in the near future, stem cell treatments may help restore the brain's natural production of dopamine.

Michael J. Fox has been a great spokesman for Parkinson's Disease (PD), though he is not the typical patient. PD is usually a disease of older men and women, and it is fairly common. The two main features of PD are a resting tremor and a stiffening of muscular actions. The tremor is most visible when the person is not moving and is relaxed. That is why you see Michael J. Fox always squirming around, so as to conceal the tremor. As long as he is in motion, the PD tremor is not so visible. PD patients describe the stiffening like a feeling as if they are encased in stone, or walking through thick syrup. It is difficult for them to bend at the joints. This stiffening is more incapacitating than the tremor. As the disease slowly wears on over the years, PD patients develop a slow, shuffling walk, lose the expression in their face, have trouble getting out of chairs, and even their handwriting changes drastically. This adds up to a terrible loss of quality of life. Much later, PD can also affect their memory and their thinking, much like in Alzheimer's disease. All of this is because of the loss of brain cells that make dopamine.

Increasing dopamine in the brains of PD patients has been a challenge. There are various medicines available, and that's a very good thing, but each of them have significant side effects, and ultimately they fail. The cure would be to find a way to prevent the destruction of dopamine producing brain cells, or to somehow restore them. That's where stem cell research and treatments fit in.

Stay tuned for future posts on Parkinson's disease that will delve into the science of stem cell research and treatments in a little more detail.

This is a short YouTube video of a Parkinson's patient: