Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disease of the substantia nigra ,an area in the basal ganglia. The disease was first discovered and its symptoms documented in 1817 by the British physician Dr. James Parkinson and the associated biochemical changes in the brain of patients were identified in the 1960s. Although some genes were identified only recently, others still remain a mystery.
In a study done recently it was seen that a drug previously used to relieve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease , however not available in the market at present due it toxicity fears has now been shown to stimulate growth of the nerve fibres damaged by the disease.
When delivered directly to the brain, glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) had been shown to stimulate regrowth of cells in animal models of Parkinson's. However specialists say that it is the first time regrowth has been seen in the human brain.
In a trial study conducted, five patients with advanced Parkinson's disease were fitted with a tiny catheter that delivered GDNF direct to the putamen, part of the basal ganglia in the centre of the brain. It was observed that some of the symptoms associated with Parkinson's such as uncontrollable shaking and trembling were reduced in all five patients and they also showed dramatic improvements with respect to their motor skills, verbal memory, facial expressions and motivation.
On studying the brain cells of a patient who died recently and who was part of the GDNF trial researchers say they were able to demonstrate the regrowth of cells in the human brain. Further examination of his brain also revealed that nerve fibres in the putamen had "sprouted" - specifically in the substantia nigra region where the cells that produce dopamine are sited.
Some drug companies manufacturing GDNF have withdrawn the drug from the market after fears over its toxicity despite the fact that the toxicity trials involved testing far higher doses of GDNF on animal models, and that none of the human subjects had showed any ill-effects.
In conclusion researchers say sufferers of Parkinson's disease can now be offered new hope after their recent research has revealed that one can actually be able to regrow brain tissue destroyed by the disease.