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UVa. Researchers Make Groundbreaking Parkinson's Discoveries

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

July 2, 2009

Parkinson's is a major medical problem with no cure, but researchers are making some groundbreaking discoveries while looking at a new treatment for the disease.

As a doctor at UVa's Parkinson's Research Center, Pat Trimmer knows the medical effects of Parkinson's Disease.

"It doesn't reduce your life span, it just makes your life pretty miserable," said Dr. Trimmer, whose father was diagnosed with Parkinson's, "A very devastating disease in terms of your personal life and there is not many drug options for treatment."

Dr. Trimmer is part of a team looking at treating Parkinson's with low levels of light therapy. With Parkinson's, the engines slow down and stop running correctly. Think of this treatment like giving the engines in your body a jump start.

She says light therapy is like a shock to get energy going again. In some cases, light therapy has restored normal movement in cells.

Dr. Trimmer explains that Parkinson's is progressive in its attack on the body and is one of the most common neuro-degenerative diseases, second only to Alzheimer's Disease.

Parkinson's can be inherited, but in 95% of cases, the cause is unknown. That unknown group is the area researchers at UVa. are focusing on.

"If we can't cure it, the very least we can try to do is make the lives of the people more bearable and give them a better quality of life," said Dr. Trimmer.

Light therapy is not invasive and there is no drugs or surgery involved. However, Dr. Trimmer explains that they need funding. They are in the early stages of research. If all goes well, it is possible they could use similar treatment for Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and a number of other conditions.

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