Healthy Living

Gene Therapy May Potentially Reverse Parkinson's Symptoms

Gene Therapy May Potentially Reverse Parkinson's Symptoms

As most people have been able to observe over the past decades, medical research and the execution of said research is an ever-evolving process. Doctors, researchers, and other people in the medical community are constantly analyzing the most effective means by which patients can be treated for a plethora of diseases and conditions. A recent study has aimed to do just this, with the potential to ultimately rid of the side effects experienced by the traditional means of curing or reducing the symptoms of diseases. The method being researched is known as “gene therapy.”  Gene therapy is a method that utilizes genes or forms of DNA to cure certain diseases. It does so by the insertion of the gene into the cells of a patient, as opposed to using the standard approach of surgery or medications as a solution for the disease.

Gene therapy serves the purpose of replacing damaged or abnormal cells within a patient’s body.  This process includes the insertion of a healthy “copy” of the necessary cell that will enable normal function within the human body.  This is made possible using various techniques that are important to the proper execution of this up and coming method in the medical world.  For the entire process to work in the first place, the healthy gene that is to be inserted must contain what is known as a vector, which functions as the enabler of delivery into the cell. 

The two accepted methods of gene delivery include insertion, as mentioned above (which is carried out when the gene is administered intravenously (via an IV) or injection), as well as by a method that basically takes the damaged cell out of the patient's body, exposes it to a vector in a lab, and is then returned to the patient.  Both of these methods will ultimately produce a functional protein by which the body will be able to use.

The specific application of gene therapy that has served as a point of interest is the application of this method to patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. At this current time, there is no definite method that can cure the disease, but rather slow the symptoms, which provides for a unique opportunity for progression in the medical field. The objective of gene therapy’s use to cure Parkinson’s is to increase or generate the dopamine levels that are lacking in the body of a Parkinson’s patient. 

The experimental method can be used in various ways, which include the use of different vectors.  These vectors will consist of what are known as adeno-associated virus type 2, lentivirus, adenovirus, and herpes simplex virus vectors.  Each vector operates in a different way, but for the function of treating Parkinson’s disease the most commonly experimented method has included that of adeno-associated virus type 2, or AAV-2 for short.