Gene Therapy & Possible Treatments For Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s Patients

Neurodegenerative diseases affect millions of people worldwide. In the United States alone, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, and another million Americans have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. These diseases cause the death of neurons in the brain leading to a host of serious neurological and biological issues.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease, which is a type of dementia, is still a subject of serious research. There are many hypotheses that are currently being looked at to determine the causes of this disease in which the synapses and neurons of the cerebral cortex begin to die off. In addition, amyloid plaque or excesses of proteins have been found in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

Pinpointing the cause of Parkinson’s disease has been just as difficult for scientists to uncover; however, clearly gene mutations in some form are to blame. How these mutations occur is the mystery. For those with Parkinson’s, they suffer from everything from hand and body tremors, balance issues, speech issues and a slowdown of cognitive function. This disease affects the central nervous system, killing off cells that produce dopamine.

Scientists currently are focusing their efforts at using gene therapy to slow the progression of these types of diseases and hopefully stop or cure the diseases before they progress to the point of debilitation. Gene therapy is a process by which DNA is used as a pharmaceutical agent. The scientists create a non-infectious type of virus that contains the gene and direct it into in a cell where it will then produce enzymes that slow down the progression of a disease or perhaps lessen the impact of the symptoms of the disease.

There are many different groups of scientists studying gene therapy and Parkinson’s disease, and a few of these studies have yielded encouraging results. Lancet Neurology, for example, posted a study from 2011 in which scientists completed a double-blind trial with 45 Parkinson’s patients. The group that actually received the therapy saw a much higher improvement in their motor control, while those that did not receive it had only a 12 percent improvement on average. There are several more examples of successful gene therapy studies, which hold great promise of eventually finding a way to slow or stop the disorder entirely.

Researchers so far have had less success using gene therapy to combat Alzheimer’s disease, although a 2011 study showcased the reduction of the amyloid plaque after therapy was used. This study was completed using mice that had been injected with an inactive type of the HIV lentivirus. This particular virus cause amyloid plaque to build in much the same way as the plaque builds in Alzheimer’s disease. This type of study is an excellent first step into eventually being able to use some form of gene therapy to stop or slow this disease.

Armand Zeiders enjoys writing about biomedical research. For more info regarding custom monoclonal antibody production, please go to the website today.