There are approximately 1,000,000 people today, living with Parkinson’s. Dealing with Parkinson’s disease can be very life changing for individuals living with the disease and to their family members. Parkinson’s disease affects the central nervous system that leads to progressive deterioration of a person motor function. There is no known cause of the disease; however there have been evidence that suggests that genetics and environmental factors could trigger the onset of the disease.
On a PBS Frontline presentation, ‘My Father, My Brother, and Me: Understanding Parkinson’s’, a man named Dave Iverson seeks out to find out more information about the mysteries surrounding the disease. In this PBS presentation I learned that Dave his brother and his father all had contracted the disease. This made me believe that the disease was only hereditary however after I viewed the film I learned a lot more about the disease and I understood about the main concepts of the film. This paper will be centered on the new knowledge that I have gained about the disease based upon the film.
In this video there are four main concepts. These concepts are what happens to the brain to cause the disease, what causes the disease, treatment plans for the disease, and whether or not there will be a cure. The first concept is what happens in the brain that causes the disease. There is a part of the brain called the basal ganglia. This part of the brain has a role in controlling muscle movements. What happens is that nerve cells in the basal ganglia begin to die. These nerve cells contain a brain chemical called dopamine to help control muscle movement.
Without dopamine, the nerve cells in the basal ganglia cannot properly send messages. This leads to the loss of muscle function which then is identified as Parkinson’s disease. When Parkinson’s disease begins individuals may exhibit extreme slowness in initiating and maintaining movements followed by tremors, muscle rigidity, and postural instability. Parkinson’s is a debilitating disease and as it slowly progresses the symptoms became worst. As a result individuals who have the disease may take small steps or shuffle when they walk and they may find it difficult to control voluntary movements.
It is unknown what causes the cells to die that trigger Parkinson’s. The second concept of the video is that there is no known cause of the disease. But then again, there is evidence that points to genetics and/or environmental toxins that contributes to the cause of this disease. In the early 1980’s there was a toxic called MPTP that was said to might cause Parkinson’s. It was discovered that MPTP, if giving to an individuals could induce signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s overnight. MPTP contains some of the same chemical compounds that are found in common pesticides.
Therefore scientists believed that environmental toxins may have something to do with the onset of Parkinson’s. However, decades last they are still no closer to the true cause of the disease. Genetics was also thought as a trigger for the disease. Scientist has discovered that there are six forms of genetic Parkinson’s, however they cannot pin point one specific gene that triggers Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s have different effects on different people and so does the genes for Parkinson’s. Different genes may trigger the onset of Parkinson.
A gene that triggers the disease in one family may not trigger it in another but a different gene may trigger the disease in the other family. Scientists have yet to find a cure but they studied different treatment options. The third concept is the treatment options. The main treatment Parkinson’s has been the drug Levodopa. This drug neutralizes the loss of dopamine neurons that causes the tremor symptoms of the disease. Another treatment is deep brain stimulation. In this treatment plan a device, which acts somewhat like a pacemaker, is implanted in to the brain and it delivers electric shock to the damage part of the brain.
The draw backs of these treatment plans are that the longer a patients use Levodopa the less effective it is and with deep brain stimulation the operation that it requires is too invasive. (Frontline, 2013) Scientists are now looking for better treatment plans and possibly a cure. Finding the cure is the last of the four concepts but the most important concept. Finding a cure for Parkinson’s is challenging because of the debate about stem cell research. Stem cell research could possibly treat or maybe even cure Parkinson’s.
Scientist is also studying neuroprotection. Neuroprotection “chemical substances that, when introduced into the brain, could either blunt the effects of Parkinson’s disease on a patient after he is diagnosed or, better yet, prevent Parkinson’s altogether”(Frontline, 2013). The reasons why it is so hard to find a cure for Parkinson’s is because scientists cannot pinpoint what causes the disease. It is hard to cure something when there is no known cause. There is evidence of environment and genetics factors but on one can be sure.
Stem cell research could be a cure but there are too many debates about whether it is being moral or unethical. Politics has also come in play of why it is so hard to find a cure. There are money limits on government funding for research. There are two aspects of stem cell controversy the first one is the fact that an embryo has the potential to become a life. This draws a line in the moral and ethical issue. There simply is no simple answer in this debate. A person must decide for himself if the moral implications of such research be greater than the destruction of viable embryo.
The embryos are going to be destroyed anyway so why not use them to preserve life. They will be beneficial to thousands of other lives that must also be taken in to consideration. Individuals and their families who are suffering from this debilitating disease could greatly benefit from these stem cells. There are two completely opposite views of life and living with disease verses a cure from embryonic cells. The controversy goes on while individuals living with Parkinson’s disease can only hope for the chance to get more of their functions and life back to a more “normal” level.
The second aspect of the stem cell controversy is that of the government’s decisions and policies regarding the use of such research. In 1999, President George W. Bush declared that the use of existing embryonic tissue was beneficial to research however they could not experiment with any new embryos. Plus there isn’t enough funding for extensive research. Individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease can learn how to cope with the disease by therapy, medication and exercise. A properly designed exercise program seems to help individual’s diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
It seems that exercise somehow protects the dopamine-producing part of the brain while a more inactive lifestyle allows the dopamine production to be halted. The research also indicates that exercise helps increase human growth factors that are vital to the preliminary production of dopamine centers in the brain and seem to block the destruction of these areas when Parkinson’s progresses. Parkinson’s patients and their family must learn how to adapt to a different lifestyle however which the help of therapy and medication for the patients the transition can be made easier.
On a PBS Frontline presentation, ‘My Father, My Brother, and Me: Understanding Parkinson’s, I learned more knowledge about Parkinson’s disease. After viewing the film my beliefs and knowledge of the disease has been heighten.
I now know what some of the factors in causing the disease and I understood about the main concepts of the film which are: what happens to the brain to cause the disease, what causes the disease, treatment plans for the disease, and whether or not there will be a cure. References Frontline, 1995 – 2013. “My Father, My Brother, and Me: Understanding Parkinson’s,” Retrieved from WGBH Educational Foundation.