British scientists claim tests for a new treatment for Parkinson’s disease have proved encouraging.
The therapy introduces three genes into the brain to boost levels of a chemical that sufferers lack.
Doctors in Cambridge have noticed a marked change in at least one patient in the trials.
Sheila Roy has suffered for 17 years. She said:
“People would take knives off me in the kitchen because I was everywhere with a knife. My vocal chords would suddenly shut so I can’t breathe. If I hit a wall of people then I can’t function, I just stop, but I’m feeling I can see a glimmer of the person I used to be now, which is really exciting.”
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disorder affecting movement caused by a degeneration in the brain cells that produce dopamine.
The new treatment delivers genes into the brain converting cells into a kind of replacement dopamine factory helping to control a patient’s movements.
Trials in just a handful of patients have been conducted at Cambridge University.
Dr. Philip Buttery, a neurologist at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences of the Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair said: “It seems to be having an overall beneficial effect on smoothing out people’s days, probably allowing a slight dose reduction in medication and, for some patients a better sleep pattern, a better quality of life overall.”
The idea is that a single injection of gene therapy reduces the need for patients to consume large amounts of drugs. Researchers are still monitoring patients for side effects. Doctors stress this is not a cure, but could nevertheless enable Parkinson’s sufferers to reclaim their lives.
Sheila Roy added: “If you can treat the symptoms and control in some way the deterioration in what you can do, it has to be better for you and it is.”
The researchers say Parkinson’s already affects 4.1 million people worldwide and that figure is expected to more than double by 2030.