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Tackling Parkinson’s With Targeted Therapeutic Vaccines

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Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease

The Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder that is prevalent among the elderly. In Europe alone, there are around 1.2 million people who suffer from this disease. The good news is that clinical trials on a new Parkinson’s disease vaccine are about to begin. The said vaccine could improve the lives of several thousand people suffering from the disease by offering significant improvement over the existing treatment methods. It is expected that this vaccine will not just treat the symptoms of the disorder but will also modify the progression of the disease.

This SYMPATH project partners include five universities and three SMEs from across Europe. The project has received nearly EUR 6 million in EU funding from the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). AFFiRiS, located in Vienna, Austria, is the coordinator for the project’s ambitious research programme.

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Typically, it results due to the death of dopamine-generating cells in a region of the midbrain. The reason of the death of these cells is not known. . The muscles of the person suffering from Parkinson's disease become weaker gradually. In the early stages of the diseases, the symptoms are all movement related which includes tremors in the hand, shaking, rigidity, difficulty in walking, slowness of movement, etc. What makes things worse is that there is no cure for this disease. Its treatment today consists of therapeutic measures that can only treat the symptoms. The progress of the disease is slow but, gradually it can put the person into a debilitating state.

It is expected that the new vaccine will work by targeting a specific protein called alpha-Synuclein. This protein plays an important role in the onset and progression of Parkinson's disease as well as ‘Multiple system atrophy’ (MSA). MSA is actually a rare neurodegenerative disorder whose progression is rapid and it leads to the death of the affected person within nine years. With its onset degeneration of nerve cells in specific areas of the brain starts which causes problems with movement and balance.

Development of such vaccine is the need of the hour. The condition of the healthcare system for the elderly in the European countries is not very sound economically. It is expected that by 2025, more than 20?% of Europeans will be 65 or over. An ageing population means more people who suffer from physical, sensory and mental diseases. In order to maintain manageable healthcare costs and to ensure that the quality of life of most of the European citizen is decent, diseases like Parkinson’s disease need to be addressed. The objective of this SYMPATH project is the same. Even though therapeutic vaccines for such diseases have been a subject of intensive research, no concept has as yet entered into clinical practice.

The trials of the said vaccine are set to be conducted in Vienna and Innsbruck, Austria.  With these trails, the safety and tolerability of the vaccine will be established. Additionally, the researchers will also be able to assess and study the vaccine’s immunological and clinical activity in vaccinated patients.

The good thing about this vaccine is that it is quite cost-effective. They are said to be effective with minimal side-effects. Plus, the vaccines need to be administered for only a limited number of times. There are no other therapeutic projects for treating this disease that offer the same benefits. Therefore, the SYMPATH project not only serves to meet public health needs but also does its bit to contribute to the sustainability of European healthcare systems.