Parkinson’s disease

Overview

Millions of senior citizens around the world lead a painful life battling the ravages of Parkinson’s. The disease typically hits people over 65 and preys on their motor abilities, eventually turning them into trembling, infirm cripples. These elderly people exhibit a slow, awkward gait, even as their limbs turn rigid and becomeprone to tremors.Loss of balance turns their attempts to walk into a painful shuffle; they often lose facial expression and sometimes the ability to speak. In as many as half, the disease also comes with psychiatric complications of anxiety and depression.Though it is not clear what causes the disease it is believed that at least some cases are hereditary. It is, however, known that cells in an area of the brain called the “substantia nigra” die off. These cells make a molecule called dopamine, which helps control muscle movement.Drug therapies have, therefore, focused on replacing the dwindling supply of dopamine or addressing specific symptoms associated with the disease. Thanks to recent advances in the lab, including the pinpointing of several Parkinson’s genes, scientists are now uncovering new biochemical pathways involved in the disease and stripping open new targets for therapy.

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