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PARKINSON’S DISEASE

Also known as shaking palsy, Parkinson’s is one Treatment


of North America’s most common debilitating There is so far no definitive cure for Parkinson’s
illnesses. It is often thought of as a disease of old disease but it is treatable- most effectively at its
age, one person in a hundred will develop it by outset. Therefore, early diagnosis is best. For the
retirement age, but half of them may have it by time being, conventional treatment includes
age 40. medication that attempts to restore neurochemical
Parkinson’s disease develops progressively. Nerve balance by replacing or supplementing the body’s
cells slowly degenerate in the part of the mid-brain production of dopamine. Neurosurgical techniques
that controls movement (the substantia nigra layer and fetal tissue implants have had some success.
of the ganglia). In normal health, messages from Some scientists are developing implantable
the motor cortex to the reticular formation initiate electrodes into the brain to stimulate specific
free movement, and neurotransmitters released neural pathways. Drugs such as selegiline have
from the basal ganglia in response to the same shown promise. A team headed by researchers
messages slow or dampen movement, providing P.Jenner and C.W.Olanow from the
the suppleness and dexterity we take for granted. Neurodegenerative Disease Research Centre in
These two neurotransmitters are dopamine, which London have shown that selegiline may increase
stimulates the damping effect, and acetylcholine, GSH activity. Recently, newer drugs like
which inhibits it. pramipexole and ropenerole have emerged as more
effective treatments.
Symptoms and Causes
Its exact cause is usually unknown, but Parkinson’s disease and Glutathione
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by cell Recent research has revealed two important
damage in the basal ganglia. Production of findings: first, biochemical analysis of the affected
dopamine slows down and the characteristic brain tissue shows damage consistent with
symptoms appear. It begins with weakness or extensive oxidative stress and the circulation of
stiffness accompanied by a slight tremor of the free radicals that follow it; second, GSH levels in
hands or head. Over time the shaking increases, these tissues are particularly low. A striking
muscles stiffen and there is a visible deterioration feature of Parkinson’s is an approximate 40%
in balance and coordination. In advance stages, decrease during the early stages of the disease. A
symptoms include generalizes rigidity, drooling, group of researchers from the University of
loss of appetite, stooped posture, a shuffling walk Southern California led by J.D.Adams Jr. were
and a fixed facial expression. Eventually, able to show that in advanced Parkinson’s Disease
communication skills may be impaired. Dementia, glutathione levels fall to a mere 2% of normal.
depression and other emotional problems are Whether the drop in GSH is a cause or a symptom
common. of this damage remains unclear. But there is good
Genetic factors play a role too, but there are other news – elevated GSH levels slow brain tissue
contributing causes including certain medications, damage. Some symptoms may even be reversed.
pesticides, carbon monoxide, cyanide, manganese, Since damage caused by free radicals is an
street heroin, specific viruses and the type of invariable component of Parkinson’s Disease,
repetitive head trauma suffered by boxer researchers have experimented with a variety of
Mohammed Ali (dementia pugilistica). high-dose antioxidants. In addition to the more
Researchers at the National Institute of Health in well known antioxidants, glutathione therapy has
Bethesda have recently identified a gene also been used. Not only is GSH an exceptional
programmed for the production of a protein called antioxidant, the substantia nigra of Parkinson’s
alpha synuclein. There is hope that this clue will patients is especially deficient in it, so their need is
open the door to further discoveries about particularly great. M. Gabby’s research team in
Parkinson’s disease and innovative ways to treat it. Israel showed that elevated GSH levels more
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effectively reduce dopaminergic toxicity than the apparent helpfulness of GSH supplementation in one
antioxidant vitamins C and E. Paradoxically, while particular case.
Wally, a 74-year-old baseball fan, was diagnosed with
brain cells need dopamine to function, dopamine Parkinson’s disease in May 1997. His disease
at certain times is actually toxic to the same progressed quickly and his doctors placed him on
tissues. This may be why drugs which raise L- Sinemet (carbidopa/levodopa). In November he began
dopa levels, like Sinemet, only work for a few to experience severe headaches – presumably from
the medication – and he discontinued it. Up to this
years before the effects wear off and the patient point he had been a very active man, but now he
subsequently deteriorates. deteriorated to the point where he could not get out of
Dr P. Jenner and his team at the Parkinson’s bed or even rise from a chair without help. He says
Disease Experimental Research Laboratories in movement felt like ‘walking in cement’. He was
London have extensively examined the role of constantly fatigued and soon needed a wheelchair to
go outdoors. The doctors used other medications,
GSH in the progression of this disease. They including Eldepryl (selegiline hydrochloride) and
found that glutathione levels fall consistently at Requip (ropinirole hydrochloride). They helped
the onset of Parkinson’s Disease and believe that slightly. In March 1998 he started taking Immunocal,
elevated GSH levels can help prevent neural a natural protein which raises GSH levels. After five
days his headaches were gone. Within two weeks his
damage. fatigue had lessened. Two months later Wally was
D. Offen’s team at the Beilinson Medical walking well again and was eventually able to visit
Center in Israel experimented on the actual the new Angels baseball stadium, Edison Field, and
neurons involved in dopamine metabolism. They jog around the block. There was no other therapeutic
investigated the cell-death associated with the intervention and seven months later his active lifestyle
continued.
Parkinsonian decline in dopamine. To slow down 62-year-old Carol maintained an active legal practice
this decline they used antioxidants, and found that until 1990. After a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in
the thiol (sulfur-containing) antioxidants GSH, 1986, she was able for a while to continue her career
NAC and dithioleitol worked well. In the cautious as a lawyer, but eventually had to quit. The stress was
aggravating her symptoms and the symptoms were in
language of medical science, they described them turn increasing her stress levels. She was treated with
as ‘markedly protective’ of brain cells. This a number of different medications but her health
corroborated the findings of M. Gabby’s work continued to deteriorate until she eventually needed
(above), further supporting the theory that GSH help at home to carry out day-to-day tasks. She quit
may prevent or delay dopamine-induced cell driving her car and stopped taking her daily walks,
which she loved. Then, within days of starting to take
death. a bioactive whey protein isolate she noticed her
G. Sechi and his team in Italy studied a group strength returning. Weeks afterwards she was once
of untreated Parkinson’s patients in the early more exploring her neighborhood and nine months
stages of the disease who received intravenous later she was driving again.
GSH therapy twice a day for a month. All patients
improved significantly, with more than 40% Conclusion
decrease in their disability. Their improvement Parkinson’s disease is characterized by a loss of
faded away two to four months after the last GSH the brain cells that regulate dopamine. Significant
treatment. evidence point to the role of oxidative stress and
Other authors have drawn attention to the role dramatically low GSH levels as critical
of GSH-enhancing drugs in the treatment of this contributing causes of this damage. Studies have
disease. There is much evidence to support the demonstrated that protecting these cells from
usefulness of elevated glutathione levels. Today, damage and death by raising GSH levels can
however, there are ways to raise GSH levels succeed both in the laboratory and in patients and
without the use of pharmaceutical drugs. is a welcome addition to conventional medical
treatments.
CASE STUDY
Glutathione is part of the body’s defense system and The above is taken from “Glutathione – GSH – your body’s
protects us against the onset of many disease most powerful healing agent”
processes. It can also help to reverse certain by Jimmy Gutman MD, FACEP and Stephen Schettini.
conditions or symptoms, either temporarily or ISBN: 0-9687078-2-3
permanently. The following story illustrates the