A study in the latest edition of the Lancet suggests that a new gene therapy might be a safe and effective way to stave off the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. A dozen patients with advanced Parkinson's have been treated over three years in the small-scale trial, led by Andrew Feigin of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York.
The treatment involves an injection of a virus that has been modified to carry the gene for a protein called GAD, which stands for glutamic acid decarboxylase. This protein is vital for producing a neurotransmitter molecule in the brain called GABA, which is faulty in Parkinson's disease. Adding extra GAD helps to boost the levels of GABA, which helps to damp down the hyperactivity in the brain that causes the symptoms of the illness. After treatment, patients had a nearly 30% improvement in symptoms, as detected by brain scans.
Although the treatment can't help to change the underlying disease, it could help to stave off the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, which include tremors, and stiffness. The researchers are now planning much larger placebo-controlled clinical trial, to see how effective their new treatment is.