The Parkinson's-reversing Breakthrough
Though tremor and other problems with movement are the main features of Parkinson's disease, one-third to one-half of the one million Americans with Parkinson's also have significant cognitive and memory problems. Parkinson's disease, which is most common in people over the age of fifty, involves the loss of neurons in a brain structure called the substantia nigra, which produces dopamine, a chemical messenger that controls movement and helps you form memories. Patients with Parkinson's disease frequently exhibit deficits on tasks of visuospatial analysis and construction (such as assembling puzzles and designs). A small subset of patients develop global dementia with severe deficits in multiple cognitive domains, including memory.
Medications that have been used to boost levels of the neuro-transmitter dopamine in the treatment of Parkinson's disease are also being investigated for treating mild cognitive impairment. Such drugs are used in other countries but are not yet approved for this specific indication in the United States. Clinical trials have
Preliminary findings on the use of stem cells in treating the depletion of dopamine-producing cells in Parkinson's disease have produced mixed results. Clinical trials here and abroad have found the stem cell implants significantly improved symptoms in some patients to the point where they no longer needed dopaminer-gic therapy however, the symptoms worsened in other patients. As with any type of organ transplant or tissue graft, one of the major obstacles to overcome with stem cell transplants is to prevent a rejection response in which the body's natural immune defense attacks the new cells. Early experiments with neural stem cell transplants have yielded a wealth of basic information about stem cells and the work that needs to be done before stem cell transplantation can become a viable therapy. To be effective, the transplanted cells need to be rendered specific to the task at hand. If the therapy calls for an increase in dopamine, for example as in Parkinson's disease then stem...
Jozsef Knoll, a Hungarian university professor, developed selegiline as an antidepressant medication in the 1950s. Its antidepressant action is related to its ability to inhibit the enzyme monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B), thereby raising the brain level of monoamines, which function as neurotransmitters. These monoamines include dopamine, which is needed for normal muscle control, sex drive, cognition, and novelty seeking or adventurous behavior. Based on its actions on the brain's dopamine system, selegiline is also widely used as a medication to treat Parkinson's disease.
Although I have emphasized that we do not have data about any medications on long-term prevention of memory loss, we do have safety data on long-term use for many of these medications. The vitamins can be taken on a daily basis for years, and so can estrogen in women, provided there is gynecological monitoring. Aricept has been prescribed for several years of continuous usage without major adverse events in Alzheimer's patients, and selegiline has been taken by many Parkinson's patients continuously for several years to decades. Ginkgo
In the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s, there were a series of landmark papers published describing a loss of cholinergic neurons in the brains of AD patients (11, 83, 84). This led to the formulation of the cholinergic hypothesis of AD (85-87), which briefly stated posited that loss of cholinergic function in the CNS was the basis for the dementia in AD. There was palpable optimism in the papers published during that period, which is poignant in retrospect. The feeling was that this might be the breakthrough in AD that would be analogous to the dopaminergic hypothesis of Parkinson's disease perhaps treatment with cholinomimetics or acetylcholinesterase inhibitors might do for AD patients what l-DOPA had done for Parkinson's patients.
Except for iron, all the heavy metals described in this section come under the category of trace elements because they are needed in microscopic quantities for normal bodily function. These metals can become toxic if taken in high doses. You may recall my earlier story about how my father's Parkinson's disease was going to be treated with an Ayurvedic heavy metal concoction, and I put a stop to it because of the potential for toxicity. Traces of lead, mercury, or arsenic, which are indistinguishable to the naked eye when mixed with other metals, can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. Therefore, if you plan to take a metallic supplement of any type, you must buy it from a reputed manufacturing source, preferably one with a national or international reputation.
Lewy bodies are hallmark pathological features found in the neurons of people with Parkinson's disease. They also appear to play a role in other neurodegenerative disorders that cause dementia. Cortical Lewy-body disease refers to a dementia that presents with Parkinsonian motor symptoms (primarily rigidity and gait 68, disorder), as well as fluctuating attention and alertness, visual hal
A more direct human application is transplantation, which has been tried with dopamine-producing cells in Parkinson's patients who suffer from dopamine deficiency. In the early work, human fetal cells that produced dopamine were transplanted, because such cells are more likely to retain the capacity to reproduce than adult cells. Later, the abortion controversy led to a U.S. ban on the use of fetal tissue in medical research or procedures. This political detour submerged the revolutionary impact of the finding that cells from outside the body can actually survive and reproduce after being placed inside the brain. A Mexican neurosurgeon reported the initial successful transplants in Parkinson's disease, but Scandinavian and American doctors could not replicate the results, and the jury is still out on this issue. But note that long-term follow-up of these transplanted Parkinson's patients has revealed a disturbing side effect involuntary jerks and movements caused by the transplanted...
Dementia is a progressive deterioration of memory and other cognitive functions. Although extremely rare in people younger than sixty years old, dementia becomes increasingly more common with age. The incidence is about 10 percent at age sixty-five and doubles every ten years thereafter. The leading cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease other causes include cerebrovascular disease, Lewy-body disease, Parkinson's disease, alcoholism, HIV, and rare degenerative brain disorders, such as Pick's disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and Hunt-ington's disease.
Still in his twenties, he found himself on network television. America, it seems, couldn't get enough of him, and he went on to have a phenomenal career. His books are widely read in Britain, but Lorayne as a performer is not so well known some people might remember his appearance on Michael Parkinson's TV chat show in the 1970s.
Diffuse Lewy body disease is a diagnosis that has gained in popularity in the 1990s. Lewy bodies are microscopic structures present in the brains of patients with Parkinson's disease. At least one-third of Alzheimer's patients also have clinical features of Parkinson's disease tremor, slow movements, rigidity of muscles, and difficulty in walking. Some of these patients have Lewy bodies in addition to the typical Alzheimer's autopsy findings of neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques. A British group headed by Ian McKeith has led the charge in calling for a separate diagnostic category called diffuse Lewy body disease, which has the clinical features of dementia, Parkinsonian signs, fluctuating memory loss and confusion, hallucinations, and extreme sensitivity to antipsychotic medications. Many cases previously called Alzheimer's are now called Lewy body disease this topic remains controversial.
For twenty-three years, my father suffered from Parkinson's disease, a chronic, disabling brain disorder to which he eventually succumbed. Muhammad Ali, Janet Reno, and Michael J. Fox are among the prominent people who suffer from this illness. Parkinson's disease is caused by a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The most widely used western or allopathic treatment, Sinemet, is a combination of levodopa and carbidopa that works by increasing dopamine levels within the brain. This is by no means a perfect treatment, and at best staves off a few of the more nasty features of the illness. An episode that occurred early in the course of my father's illness helps to illustrate one facet of alternative medications in enhancing brain function. A few years after my father developed Parkinson's disease, during one of my annual visits to my parents' house, I strolled in to see my mother in her bedroom. She was clad in a faded off-white sari, her domestic dress as per traditional...
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