Experimental treatments are being brought up increasingly as a treatment mode for Parkinsons patients. Two experimental treatments that are showing promise are deep brain stimulation (DBS) and GDNF (which stands for glial derived neurotrophic factor).
Deep brain stimulation is a surgical and experimental technique that involving permanent electrodes implanted in the thalamus portion of the brain. Repeated pulses of electricity, administered by way of a heart pacemaker are then used to stimulate the area in order to control the symptoms of Parkinsons disease.
Glial derived neurotrophic factor is a natural growth agent that is necessary in order for the brain to produce enough dopamine for normal functioning of the human body. In 2002 a pilot study conducted at the Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, southwestern England made use off GDNF. This experimental drug was pumped into the dopamine impaired areas of the brain, and remarkable improvements were seen in the patients who were a part of the study. Five patients found their mobility increased while one patients sense of smell and sense of humor returned.
The neurosurgeon leading the study reported that it is to be a three-year study but researchers involved in it were encouraged by the preliminary findings. It was theorized that GDNF would take months or even a number of years to show successful results for Parkinsons patients but within a couple of months of conducting the study, positive results were noted as was a lessening in the severity of symptoms.
Other studies done with GDNF have proven promising as well. Animal studies have shown that GDNF has the capability of blocking nerve cells degeneration, and as a part of a gene therapy treatment has yielded encouraging results in allowing dopamine brain cells to work a great deal better than they did at the onset of the disease.
Stem cell therapies, although controversial, are also being considered as experimental treatments to help Parkinsons sufferers. There are presently four types of stem cells that could be potentially beneficial to those afflicted with Parkinsons disease.
These include blastocyst embryonic stem cells, fetal stem cells, umbilical cord stem cells and adult stem cells. Fetal stem cells are believed to be the most versatile in their ability to aid in disease prevention and the improvement of a diseases symptoms.
In the last two years the amount of embryonic stem cell lines being developed by scientists in laboratories has increased dramatically. It is believed that the constant expansion of stem cell cultures could make it possible for one stem cell line to aid in improving symptoms in hundreds, perhaps even as many as thousands Parkinson patients. New EU rules will be coming into effect in April 2006 regarding the use and subsequent testing of stem cells. All stem cell and IVF laboratories must agree to the new rules in order to remain operational.
Newer drugs, including COMT inhibitors and growth factors, are also being developed but many are still experimental in nature at the present time. However researchers hope that after being put through rigorous trials, that these drugs will be available to be prescribed for Parkinsons sufferers in the not so far off future.