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Advances in Parkinson’s Treatment

Big news this week at the University of Toledo Medical Center, with the announcement of a new 6-thousand square foot Parkinson's center. The Gardner-McMaster Parkinson's Center comes at a time of amazing advances in the treatment of Parkinson's Disease.

Dr. Lawrence Elmer is a Professor in the Department of Neurology and the Director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Program at UTMC. He says there's no question that the need is there for the new Parkinson's center at UTMC.

"We are seeing people come from the Detroit area, from Eastern Ohio and also from the Columbus area because I think everybody's struggling with the fact that there are so many people with Parkinson's who need help and there are so few Parkinson's specialists."

Dr. Elmer's passion for helping Parkinson's patients is clear, as he told 13abc's Susan Ross Wells about exciting breakthroughs in treatment. One is something called interdisciplinary care, or in simple terms: a team approach.

"Basically we don't leave any stone uncovered. You will have physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech, pharmacy, nursing, neuropsychology... all these different aspects working together to improve the quality of life and the functioning of the patient with Parkinson's."

Dr. Elmer says there are exciting new medicines too, including a patch that mimics a chemical in the brain called dopamine. He says Parkinson's patients don't have sufficient dopamine, which he says is sort of like WD-40.

"And if you don't have enough WD-40 in your brain you become just like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz... it's just everything becomes difficult to do."

The doctor says the patch will allow medicine absorption 24-hours-a-day, which is a big benefit compared to the effects of a pill wearing off for patients. Dr. Elmer says there are also other new medicines that affect the part of the brain that involves caffeine. He says research has shown these new medicines help with symptoms in a completely different way than the dopamine medicines, and that could help with side effects for some patients.

"Like for example, hallucinations or dyskinesias, the extra wiggling movements that we see with Michael J Fox. Those extra movements are classic for excessive dopamine levels," says the doctor.

Dr. Elmer says another remarkable development involves research out of Germany that shows Parkinson's starts in two parts of our body that are exposed to the environment: our sense of smell in our nose and the nervous system of the intestines. He says there's research looking at possible environmental triggers for Parkinson's focusing on herbicides and pesticides as possible factors.


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