Future treatments for Parkinson's
Current research into future
treatments for Parkinson's is concerned with trying to replace
lost dopamine by using drugs that mimic
its actions or preventing the remaining nerve cells being broken
down so they remain more effective.
Dopamine is a chemical which allows messages
to be sent to the parts of the brain that co-ordinate movement.
Parkinson's occurs due to a loss of
nerve cells in the brain. The symptoms of Parkinson's emerge when
around 70% of cells have been lost.
The nerve cells that die and lead to the development of
Parkinson's are responsible for producing dopamine.
With the loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells, these parts of
the brain are unable to function normally, causing the symptoms of
Parkinson's to appear.
Gene therapy for Parkinson's
therapy is a new approach to treating medical conditions, which can
be described as the use of genes as drugs.
For Parkinson's, gene therapy could be used to prevent the death
of nerve cells and also to promote the regeneration of cells.
It works by introducing normal genes into people with certain
disorders to overcome the effects of defective genes that may cause
or have a part to play in the development of their condition.
Gene therapy will be useful as a treatment for Parkinson's,
whether or not a genetic cause led to or contributes to their
It is likely to be used to treat people in the early stages of
Parkinson's whose nerve cells are still alive, whose symptoms are
not controlled by available medications, or those with severe side
Gene therapy is not yet available as a therapeutic option for
people with Parkinson's and is still in the early stages of
You can read more in our Gene therapy
for Parkinson's information sheet.
Stem cell research
The research we're doing into stem cells could ultimately restore the supply of dopamine and make the brain work properly again.
Dr Tilo Kunath, University of Edinburgh
Stem cells have the ability to develop into different types of
cells, for example skin, blood, brain and bone, by a process known
Stem cells are found at many different sites in the developing
and adult body and brain.
They can renew themselves for long periods and could potentially
be used to repair and renew cells in the body and brain.
Stem cell research aims to understand more about how an organism
develops from a single cell and how healthy cells can replace
damaged cells in the adult.
Researchers are looking at how dopamine-producing cells that are
lost in people with Parkinson's can be replaced with new healthy
dopamine-producing cells derived from stem cells grown in the
If this were possible, stem cell therapy could be the first
treatment to eventually offer an effective cure for
Although stem cell research is progressing steadily in the UK,
it will be at least 5 to 10 years before clinical trials using stem
cell therapy will be considered.
You can read more in our Stem cell
research information sheet.
Developing better treatments for Parkinson's
We are committed to developing new and better treatments for
Parkinson's and, ultimately, a cure.
Read more about our current
In this section
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