[Webinar Recording] Emerging Therapies for Parkinson’s

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Now is a time for hope for people living with Parkinson’s. Research continues to prove that certain actions and behaviors can help people live well with Parkinson’s TODAY, and there are numerous drugs, surgical procedures, complementary therapies, and other treatments in the works to help treat symptoms and potentially slow or even stop the progression of Parkinson’s. In this webinar recording, movement disorder specialist Michael Okun, MD, shares the latest on emerging therapies for Parkinson’s and what’s coming down the pike for the Parkinson’s community.

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To download the transcript, click here.

Show Notes

The term “therapy” can refer to any method or modality that can be used to improve your quality of life. While there are many new and exciting treatments and methods being research and explored, there are a number of false advertisements in this area as well. This can make it difficult to tell fact from fiction. Dr. Okun suggests people with Parkinson’s approach everything you hear with an open mind, ask lots of questions, and share the information with someone you trust to get an outsider’s perspective.

Read on for the latest on a number of different emerging therapies for Parkinson’s.

EXERCISE
  • Exercise has been found to reduce Parkinson’s symptoms, and a lack of exercise can make symptoms worse
  • There have been many animal studies that show important changes in the brain circuitry from exercise, and studies are now moving to testing these hypotheses on humans
  • Two studies in particular, the SparkX and the Park-in-Shape studies, have shown increased activity in the front side of the putamen (a brain region important in stabilizing motor function) with exercise. For a summary of the studies, click here
  • While there are no definitive studies on the best exercise intensity and duration for people with Parkinson’s, it has been shown that multi-disciplinary (meaning different forms) exercise is beneficial, as is exercising with enough intensity that you sweat
Stem Cell Therapy
  • While stem cell therapy has been hyped by media as being the possible “holy grail” of emerging therapies, it has not produced as many positive results as scientists were hoping, so now they are trying to figure out why
  • If you’re interested in learning more on this topic, check out the podcast “Bad Batch,” research done by Takashaki, and The Stem PD Group
Gene Therapy
  • Researchers are currently exploring the possibilities of gene therapy for people with Parkinson’s who have a single genetic abnormality (about 15-20% of people with Parkinson’s)
  • In time, researchers hope to see if gene therapy has possibilities of treating people with Parkinson’s who don’t have this single gene abnormality
Vaccines
  • There is a series of studies investigating the possibility of manipulating the body’s immune system to “clean off” certain proteins in the brain (alpha-synuclein and Lewy bodies) created by Parkinson’s
Focused Ultrasound
  • Focused ultrasound involves pushing soundwaves into localized areas of the brain to burn sections of the brain that are not working properly
  • This has been very helpful for some people and is a non-invasive procedure (meaning surgeons can do it from outside the skull)
  • Focused ultrasound is able to interrupt the blood brain barrier (the body’s natural defense to keep harmful materials out of the brain), so researchers are exploring the possible use of focused ultrasound with other therapies in the future to get drugs, gene therapy, and other potentially helpful treatments to the brain
Adaptive/closed-loop deep brain stimulation
  • There are now deep brain stimulation devices that can track brain activity and correspondingly adjust the impulses sent out by the device in response to this tracked activity
Light therapy
  • Sunlight can affect your brain and how your brain is oscillating. There is a study out of Harvard and Mass General that shows this effect
  • There has also been an interest lately in the use of infrared therapy, which researchers are currently studying. A study from the University of Florida shows some possible benefits of this therapy
Ketamine and PCP
  • Ketamine has been shown to have an antidepressant effect and can potentially suppress dyskinesia
  • Micro doses of PCP for people with severe depression and PTSD have been shown to sometimes “reset the brain circuits.” Studies for the use of this is Parkinson’s are still in their infancy
Cannabis
  • Cannabis has many variations, so there are numerous ongoing studies about its possibilities as a Parkinson’s therapy
  • Multiple studies have showed that cannabis can help with anxiety, sleep, and pain
  • It’s important to note that formulations of cannabis with THC can affect your driving, so use with caution
Therapies for Cognition
  • There is early work being done attempting to stimulate certain areas of the brain to improve cognition
  • There have been some small sample size research studies investigating the effects of certain medications on cognition, but larger studies need to be done
  • Scientists are looking at repurposing certain drugs used for Alzheimer’s to be effective for improving cognition in people with Parkinson’s

additional resources

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For numerous additional resources on specific topics including but not limited to exercise, complementary therapies, deep brain stimulation, and more, visit our Topic Page Hub. 

more about the speaker

Michael Okun, MD

Dr. Michael Okun received his medical degree with honors from the University of Florida. He was fellowship-trained by Mahlon DeLong, Jerrold Vitek, and Ray Watts at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, before founding the movement disorders program at the University of Florida. He is currently Chair of Neurology, Professor, and Executive Director of the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at the University of Florida Health College of Medicine. He is a co-author of Ending Parkinson’s, Living with Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Treatment: 10 Secrets to a Happier Life.

 

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