Dr. James Parkinson first described the shaking palsy in 1817 a collection of symptoms that we now call Parkinson's disease. Now some 200 years later this disease that affects one million Americans still has not been cured.
There are some treatments such as L-dopa and surgeries such as deep brain stimulation that help manage the symptoms, but all attempts to stop or reverse the disease have failed.
There is new research on a simple protein alpha-synuclein that points to a possible break through. The working theory is that alpha-synuclein forms sticky clumps called amyloid that jump from brain cells to brain cell killing cells. This is particularly true for nerve cells that make the neural transmitter dopamine. When 70% of these dopamine cells are destroyed the patient starts displaying the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Researchers are working on a number of alpha-synuclein busting agents. Several of them will begin clinical trials in the next few years. If given early enough such agents might prevent the development of Parkinson's disease. Of course this treatment may not pan out, but that is the natural course of research. Never the less it is an exciting concept. We will give you updates as they develop.