Parkinson's Disease: past, present and future
At the end of April we went to a charity event to raise money for Parkinson's UK, Huntingdonshire Branch. It was also an opportunity to pay tribute to some wonderful friends of ours, Dill (John) and Brenda Davies.
Brenda was diagnosed with Parkinson's several years ago and became a fantastic, and very active, ambassador for Parkinson's UK. A couple of years ago she even made an appearance on the local BBC TV News. She had successfully campaigned for Parkinson's patients who are admitted to hospital to be able to take their medication when they need it and not have to wait for the medicines trolley to come around.
It is so important that they are able to medicate themselves at the right time otherwise many hospitalised Parkinson's patients end up in a much worse situation than before.
John, affectionately known as 'Dill', also became ill in the last few years and unfortunately, died from his cancer just over a year ago. He was the most amazing guitarist with a beautiful voice. Even when he was really poorly he managed to record his singing onto a CD to be sold on behalf of the Parkinson's UK charity (GRS are proud owners of one of these CDs). Brenda died only a couple of months after her beloved Dill. They really were inseparable. Their children carry on supporting Parkinson's UK and it was Mark (their son) and his wife, Janice, who arranged the tribute evening at the end of April when they managed to raise Ј900.00.
This reminded me that the London Regenerative Medicine Network (LRMN) arranged an evening event on 23 February 2012 entitled: "Cell therapies or growth factors: which carries the greater future potential for treating Parkinson's disease?". A full meeting report can be found here. The shock of the evening was to learn that, in the past 45 years, there has been no break-through for Parkinson's Disease. The disease can be treated but not the downward trajectory of decline. Dr Richard Wyse of The Cure Parkinsons Trust (London, UK) stated that "Governments and Pharma have been notable by their absence" and that now they need to "get their act together".
So what about the future? At the moment only drugs can improve the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease. What is needed is a treatment that slows down disease progression or, even better, reverses progression. There is now some research looking at stem cell therapy. It is clear that a break-through for the treatment and/or reversal of Parkinson's Disease is still a long way off but that there is definitely hope.
And so it is that I've come round full circle from our friends who provided their unwavering support for Parkinson's UK, to their children who continue in their footsteps and a 'nod' to the future that stem cell therapy may well be the science which translates into actual treatments. I think we are long over due for a break-through for this particularly debilitating disease.
Author: Greer Deal, Director of Global Regulatory Services