Dementia, sadly, for many people is part of growing old. It is defined as long term gradual decrease in person’s ability to think and remember and it can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It is largely inevitable process, caused by age taking its toll from the bran. However, scientists are starting to find ways to combat it.
Now scientists at the University of Adelaide are conducting a research, which is expected to ultimately lead to a new therapy for the dementia, caused by Parkinson’s disease.
Expectations for this study are high because it is a world-first research into Parkinson’s disease dementia. Scientists say that there are many unknown features behind this condition and it is an urgent need to create effective treatments. Dr Collins-Praino, leader of the research team, noted that Parkinson’s disease is characterized by four major motor symptoms: resting tremor, bradykinesia (slow movement), postural instability and rigidity. However, many Parkinson’s disease suffers also suffer from some degree of cognitive impairment, whether it is just a mild impairment or dementia.
“Within 20 years of diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease over 80% of patients develop dementia. Parkinson’s disease dementia, which includes a variety of behavioural and cognitive impairments, dramatically decreases the quality of a patient’s life”, said Dr Collins-Praino.
“Current pharmacological therapies for Parkinson’s disease dementia have varying efficacy and may actually worsen some of the motor symptoms”. The reason why current therapies are not quite as good as patients need them, is that brain mechanisms, which underlie cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease, are largely unknown. This is why now scientists at the University of Adelaide are launching a study to find the association between brain inflammation and Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Researchers say that there is actually evidence, which suggests inflammation in the brain may influence the development of cognitive impairment and dementia in Parkinson’s disease, but effects of such inflammation can be different. Although usually markers of brain inflammation in most cases are associated with negative consequences for cognition, some features of such inflammation can actually be useful – they may help protecting the brain from damage.
In order to find out if brain inflammation can protect the brain against cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease, researchers have been comparing levels of inflammation in the brain of Parkinson’s patients with and without dementia. They expect to find pathways that could be targeted with novel therapies and drugs that would help fight Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Today science does not have needed knowledge and technology to fight Parkinson’s disease efficiently. It is estimated that 7-10 million people worldwide live with this disease, most of them are elderly. Men are 1.5 times more likely to get the disease, but women and younger people get the disease as well. Parkinson’s disease is one of the causes for dementia, which, together with impaired motor function, is one of the most recognizable symptoms of the disease.
Researches like this team help science to better the understanding about what is going on in the brain of the people who suffer from Parkinson’s. It already produces some important results. Ultimately, it will lead to novel therapies that will improve quality of life of Parkinson’s disease patients.