April is World’s Parkinson’s Awareness Month and Abarca goes #allin to bring support and awareness to this condition. Today, Parkinson’s Disease affects one million people in the U.S alone and studies show these numbers will rise to 1.2 million by 2030. Together we can improve the quality of life of people living with the condition by spreading awareness and better care.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
According to Mayo Clinic, “Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, from barely noticeable tremors in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.” Parkinson’s may not be visible on one’s face; however, a person’s arms might become stiff when walking and they may have a hard time talking, as well as experience slurred speech. These conditions can often advance with time. There might not be a cure yet, but medication and other treatments can help certain regions of the brain and lessen symptoms.
Every person is different and might have various diverse symptoms. The effects can go unnoticed and sometimes be very drastic on one or both sides of the body.
The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s are:
- Rigid/stiff muscles
- Loss of control of automatic movements
- Writing challenges
- Impaired balance and coordination
What causes Parkinson’s?
Doctors and researchers are still trying to understand what causes Parkinson’s and what causes specific neurons to die in a person’s brain. The nerve cells and neurons that produce dopamine start producing less, which causes movement issues. The disease occurs when the basal ganglia’s nerves (the area in the brain that control’s a person’s muscle movement) die and/or become impaired. People with Parkinson’s also lose nerve endings that produce norepinephrine causing fatigue, blood pressure issues, etc.
Parkinson’s can also be caused by genetic mutations, hereditary and genetic factors, toxins in the environment, and in some cases, lewy bodies.
Treatments for Parkinson’s:
There is no standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Treatment for each person with Parkinson’s is based on his or her symptoms and can include certain medication and surgical therapy. Read more about treatment options here. Other treatments include lifestyle modifications, like getting more rest and exercise.
According to Hopkins Medicine, you can also treat your symptoms with certain lifestyle modifications (like getting more rest and exercise) and non-traditional therapies such as:
- Tai-Chi – The resistance and stretching training can improve a person’s balance and stability.
- Yoga – Can help increase balance, mobility, flexibility, plus mental health.
- Acupuncture – This Chinese practice can stimulate the body’s energy paths, helps with pain, and can have other positive effects.
- Other therapies include occupational therapy, supplements, life changes, and exercise.
- Medical marijuana – Cannabis can help with pain relief, better sleep, improved mood, muscle relaxation, and so much more!
A vaccine for Parkinson’s Disease?
Last year, the first data was published from a clinical trial evaluating a possible vaccine for Parkinson’s Disease. While the multi-year study was relatively small, the results could be big for the healthcare industry and millions of people around the world who might someday benefit from the vaccine.
How would a vaccine for Parkinson’s Disease work?
Parkinson’s Disease is associated with an accumulation of protein deposits (known as Lewy bodies) in the brain. Current vaccine projects involve introducing a molecule that would allow the body to produce its own antibodies against these proteins, resulting in active immunity. The hope is that these antibodies would also cling to existing protein buildups and help break them down—which could serve as the basis of future treatments.
What is in the pipeline?
A Phase I trial of Affitope PD01A, which was developed by AFFiRiS, demonstrated the vaccine candidate’s long-term safety, efficacy, and tolerability. This summer, PD01A was acquired by AC Immune which said it will immediately launch the clinical development of the optimized formulation into a Phase II study.
Another vaccine candidate, UB312 which was developed by United Neuroscience, an organization that recently merged with COVAXX to form biotech company Vaxxinity, is currently in Phase I trials that are expected to conclude in June 2022.
What does this mean?
Unlike existing drugs for Parkinson’s Disease, these vaccine candidates aim to modify the course of the disease rather than treat it. If successful, this could usher in a new age of therapies, not to mention impact member health and outcomes.
While these studies are still in their early days, the results are certainly promising. Medical science has so far had little success in slowing the progression of the disease, and a new approach to attacking or even preventing it could lead to a variety of drugs and therapies.
We are looking forward to what comes out next and will keep our public informed on new developments.
Join Abarca in bringing awareness and resources to those affected by Parkinson’s disease. If you or a loved one has Parkinson’s, please visit https://www.parkinson.org/ to learn more about the condition and explore the support services available.
*This blog post was written by Michelle Morales Clinical Service Support Manager at Abarca Health.