Parkinson's Disease

11th April was World Parkinson’s Disease Day. It is one of the many neuro-degenerative diseases that are the causes of mortality among many people. But does everyone know what is the disease? How is it caused and what are its remedies?

An English news channel was saying yesterday that the cause of Parkinson’s disease is still unknown.Well it is not true! The cause of Parkinson’s is well known. I will come to that later.Let us first characterize the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is manifested by the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the cells of Basal ganglia. (Neurons are the units of the nervous system.Two neurons are connected at synapses where they pass information to each other via neurotransmitters and dopamine is one of the many neurotransmitters). Basal Ganglia is a collection nuclei in the fore brain region. This consists of  many parts like the striatum, substantia nigra, Globus pallidus etc. The neurons in the substantia nigra are lost in this disease. The main function of Basal ganglia is believed to be fine tuning the motor impulses from the Cortex,cerebellum and thalamus. Hence a loss of function in a part of the Basal Ganglia results in the loss of motor co-ordination in the patients. This is accompanied by speech disorders and affects memory too.

A relevant question in this regard would be why are the dopaminergic neurons lost in the first place,and as always the answer lies in the genes. A number of specific genetic mutations causing Parkinson’s disease have been discovered. Genes identified as of 2008 are Alpha-synuclein(SNCA), ubiquitin carboxy-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCH-L1), parkin (PRKN), leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2 or dardarin) , PINK 1 and DJ-1.[6] With the exception of LRRK2 they account for a small minority of cases of PD.(

The mechanism by which the brain cells in Parkinson’s are lost may consist of an abnormal accumulation of the protein alpha-synuclein bound to ubiquitin in the damaged cells. The alpha-synuclein-ubiquitin complex cannot be directed to the proteasome. This protein accumulation forms proteinaceous cytoplasmic inclusions called Lewy bodies. (Ubiquitin is a protein that binds to proteins that are to be degraded in a cell. It is a step that might lead to apoptosis or programmed cell death.Proteasome is the “compartment” where this degradation happens). The latest research on pathogenesis of disease has shown that the death of dopaminergic neurons by alpha-synuclein is due to a defect in the machinery that transports proteins between two major cellular organelles — the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the Golgi apparatus. Certain proteins like Rab1 may reverse this defect caused by alpha-synuclein in animal models.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disorder that requires broad-based management including patient and family education, support group services, general wellness maintenance, physiotherapy, exercise, and nutrition. The disease cannot be reverted back to normal state but can be controlled. 

The most widely used form of treatment is L-dopa in various forms. L-dopa is transformed into dopamine in the dopaminergic neurons by L-aromatic amino acid decarboxylase (often known by its former name dopa-decarboxylase). However, only 1-5% of L-DOPA enters the dopaminergic neurons. The remaining L-DOPA is often metabolised to dopamine elsewhere, causing a wide variety of side effects. Due to feedback inhibition, L-dopa results in a reduction in the endogenous formation of L-dopa, and so eventually becomes counterproductive.

Treating Parkinson’s disease with surgery was once a common practice, but after the discovery of levodopa, surgery was restricted to only a few cases.

Gene therapies are being investigated in laboratories around the world. Extensive research is on for pinpointing the genes which control the dopamine metabolism and its defects in the central nervous system. And strategies are being worked on for providing a solution to this disease.

In conclusion i would just say that we need to educate people about these diseases and not run away from them. Patients suffering from any ailment need love and compassion. And empathy. Let us give them at least that much to begin with…..if not anything else!

About Agnivo Niyogi

Typical Aantel, reader, blogger, news addict, opinionated. Digital media enthusiast. Didi fanboi. Joy Bangla!

Posted on April 12, 2010, in Social Issues. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Aditya Nandode

    Hmmmm …… A very serious topic.


  2. Somesh Mukherjee

    ya well, sucks to have parkinsons, but I guess if you live long enough, you end up having it anyways. I know a person with parkinson, she's 54. Its pretty painful when you see her lying on the bed not knowing amything. Builds a wrench in your heart. 😦


  3. Ummm…..did u confuse with alzheimer's somesh???


  4. This is the disease that took down Mohammad Ali's pride…not the emotionally-correct words to say but just saying… good article.. informative too.


  5. well done friend. Good informative article. Keep such blogs going. It is very hard to imagine the world if we get that parkinsons..


  6. thanx all of u for finding the article informative!


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