Medical Moment: Treating Parkinson’s

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 5:51 PM EDT
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More than 10-million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s, and 60,000 are in the U.S.

It’s a chronic, progressive disease that is classified as neuro-degenerative, which means it changes and continues to get worse over time. But a new therapy, currently in trials, is proving to be a game-changer.

Ten years ago, Marie Bott was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and as the disease progressed, she wasn’t able to do the things she loves.

“I totally lost my ability to swim,” Bott recalls. “When I tried to swim, I would just go right to the bottom.”

But then, Marie was referred to a trial using stem cells to treat Parkinson’s.

Dr. Mya Schiess, a movement disorder specialist at UTHealth Neurosciences says, “This kind of treatment approach will actually address maybe halting the progression of the disease, which would be very powerful.”

In the trial, Parkinson’s patients are injected with a single dose of stem cells with varying concentrations from a healthy adult’s bone marrow. Then, they’re followed for a year after the infusion.

All the patients had improvements in motor function, reduction in inflammatory markers in the blood, and an increased ability to perform daily functions. Marie says the infusion of stem cells also had a surprising side effect.

“My skin became much younger looking,” she says. “So much so that friends said to me had I changed my beauty regimen because I didn’t appear to be so wrinkled.”

But she mostly credits the treatment for allowing her to continue her daily activities, like making breakfast and walking her dog.

“It just makes for a happier, more productive life, if you can do the things you like to do,” Bott says.

Dr. Schiess says the phase 1 trial is the first of its kind done in the United States with FDA approval. A phase 2 trial is already in the works and started recruiting back in March. Dr. Schiess says that patients from the first trial, like Marie, are not able to participate in this trial.

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