MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — The WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute is exploring a new treatment option for Parkinson’s Disease. The institute is the first site in the country to start a gene therapy trial to help treat the disease.
“This is the first time we’ve seen whether gene therapy could have substantial benefit and potential for people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Ali Rezai, MD, executive chairman of WVU’s Rockefeller Institute of Neurology. “It’s exciting to be able to initiate this study here in West Virginia and give West Virginians and others the opportunity to participate.”
The goal of the trial is to help those dealing with Parkinson’s symptoms and the side effects of Parkinson’s medication. Rezai mentioned that gene therapy has been used to change the landscape of many other conditions around the world.
“(We have) a new opportunity with gene therapy, where WVU is the first site in the country to initiate this gene therapy innovation,” Rezai said.
Rezai told 12 News the approach involves applying genes to areas of the brain that are dysfunctional due to Parkinson’s Disease. According to Rezai, implementation occurs when symptoms of normal Parkinson’s Disease such as tremors or stiffness are evident.
While people are usually given medication in some way to help treat Parkinson’s, Rezai says medication won’t always provide long-term relief.
“People with the disease over time become less responsive to medications, or their medications have side effects,” Rezai said. “Parkinson’s changes your day-to-day functions and disables you over time.”
Although some medications have been used as treatment in the past, brain implants or brain pacemakers have been commonly used in the last 20 years to help tremors, stiffness and tremors caused by Parkinson’s Disease.
“Now there’s this new phase trial with gene therapy where you don’t need the implant in your body long-term, and you put the gene in that part of the brain that’s dysfunctional with Parkinson’s, and over time in that part of it. brain changes to be more functional,” said Rezai. “Not only is it showing a clinical benefit but also a metabolic or biological change is being seen.”
There was already one participant in the trial who suffers from the disease. The group is now looking to recruit additional participants, who will be reviewed for eligibility for the study.
Although WVU is the first site for the study, Rezai told 12 News that more clinical trials will be conducted around the country in the future.