Parkinson's disease is a medical condition which causes debilitation and reduced quality of life. There are many medications used to treat Parkinson's disease yet these medications have their own side effects. Thus discoveries are still ongoing in the field of medicine as to new drug targets to treat or prevent this condition.
Facts About Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder mostly affecting the elderly. It is also known as a common movement disorder characterized by progressive loss of muscle control, trembling of the limbs and head during rest, slow movement, stiffness, and impaired balance and coordination. The symptoms may progress as time goes by until the patient may find it difficult to walk, talk or complete simple tasks. This progression of symptoms in Parkinson's disease and the degree of impairment varies from person to person. While many people with this medical condition often live long productive lives, others may suffer disability and may be debilitated and disabled. Deaths may arise from complications such as infections, pneumonia or trauma from injuries (falling).
Most people who acquire Parkinson's disease are aged 60 years or older, making us imply that this is a neurodegenerative disease of seniors. It is stipulated that the number of people who will have Parkinson's disease in the future will rise. Though this is a disease of older people, this medical condition may also affect people who are between 21-40 years. There is also another form of Parkinson's disease called juvenile-onset Parkinson’s disease which starts before age 21.
The symptoms of Parkinson's disease stem from a lack of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine acts as a chemical messenger in two brain areas, the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum. This chemical produces smooth controlled movements of the muscles of the body. Movement related symptoms of Parkinson's disease are caused by a lack of dopamine caused by the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra area of the brain. Lack of dopamine or low levels of dopamine can cause ineffective communications between the substantia nigra and corpus striatum. This further causes impairment in the movement of patients with Parkinson's disease. The greater loss of dopamine, the worse the movement symptoms are. There are other areas of the brain which may degenerate and add to movement problems in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
It is not still clear as to why dopamine producing brain cells deteriorate in Parkinson’s disease. Cell damage especially in neurons can be caused by defective cellular processes stress and inflammation. In Parkinson's disease, abnormal clumps of cells called Lewy bodies may be present in brain cells of those with Parkinson’s disease. Lewy bodies contain the protein alpha-synuclein, however their function is still not completely understood. Many experts say that dopamine loss may be attributed to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
The exact causes of Parkinson’s disease are not yet known. However, some of these affected people have family members with Parkinson’s disease, suggesting a genetic factor. There are currently five genes discovered which are associated with Parkinson’s disease: SNCA or synuclein, PARK2 or Parkinson’s disease autosomal recessive juvenile 2, PARK7 or Parkinson’s disease autosomal recessive early onset 7, PINK1 or PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 and LRRK2 or leucine-rich repeat kinase 2. Other chromosome regions and genes such as GBA (glucosidase beta acid), SNCAIP (synuclein alpha interacting protein), and UCHL1 (ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase L1) are also linked to Parkinson's disease.
New Targets for Parkinson's Disease
A recent study by researchers of the University of Dundee have discovered new chemical messenger that is critical in protecting the brain against Parkinson’s disease. This chemical messenger is known as phospho-ubiquitin, a protective messenger which cannot be made in patients with Parkinson's disease because of their genetic mutations in PINK1. This makes these patients vulnerable to stress and cell death.
You can read more about Parkinson’s disease by browsing our other articles on this site.