A brand new form of ‘gene therapy’ for Parkinson’s disease has excited experts today, after it was revealed that it could revolutionise the way the neurodegenerative disease is treated.
Researchers from the Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair have created a groundbreaking ‘one shot injection’ called ProSavin, which helps transport the nerve-controlling chemical (dopamine) to the brain.
Parkinson’s disease is caused when the brain stops producing the chemical dopamine, which in turn damages nerve cells, prompting the onset of symptoms.
These include hand and limb tremors, rigidity and slowness of movement.
The new breakthrough treatment is designed to continue a healthy flow of dopamine into the brain by mimicking “stripped-down” viruses that trick and ‘reprogramme’ brain cells into producing the chemical.
The ProSavin treatment is injected into the striatum (the part of the brain that controls motor movement). Scientists are hoping this treatment could potentially stop, or improve, the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Dr Philip Buttery from the study told Sky News: "It seems to be having an overall beneficial effect in smoothing out people's days, probably allowing a slight dose reduction in medication and in some patients a better sleep pattern and a better quality of life for all."
Despite the positive findings, the study is still in its early stages and will need further investigation as the treatment has only been tested on 15 people so far.
Scientists are hoping the treatment will be available within the next five years. Although gene therapy has taken place in the US before, this is the first time dopamine has been produced in the brain.
Dr Kieran Breen, director of research and Innovation at Parkinson’s UK told HuffPost Lifestyle: "Gene therapies hold great promise for people with Parkinson's in the future, as they could mean an end to the daily regime of drugs that most people with the condition currently face.
"In addition to ProSavin, there are three other gene therapy trials underway at the moment. So far all the therapies appear to be safe - now the challenge is to see whether they are more effective than the medications we already have for Parkinson's.
"Parkinson's UK is currently funding £750,000 worth of cutting-edge gene therapy research in the UK, which we believe could take these treatments to the next level.”
In the UK, one person in every 500 (around 127,000) has Parkinson’s disease. Yesterday, reports revealed that an estimated 115.4m people will be affected by neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s by 2050.