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Connecticut Parkinson's Working Group

Newsletter - October 2000



The Parkinsonís Research Group

-Danna Jennings, MD


This is truly an exciting time to be involved with Parkinson's disease research. Parkinson's has recently become the focus of the media primarily due to a few well-known celebrities who have come forward regarding their diagnosis. However, great strides have been made in Parkinson's disease research, which, I believe, are deserving of the media's eye.


Advances in Parkinson's disease research are occurring at many levels, such as basic research, epidemiological and genetic studies, and development of new medications. One area of basic research of great interest is stem cells: Further laboratory studies are needed before moving to human trials, but the use of stem cells in PD is promising.


Epidemiological and genetic studies are underway to identify the causes of Parkinson's disease. Although most cases of PD do-not appear to be inherited, a few families have been identified who carry genes responsible for PD symptoms. A new class of medications called COMT inhibitors (Comtan and Tasmar) has become available. COMT inhibitors can increase the benefit of Sinemet without an increase in the dose. Several clinical trials are underway to study medications that may potentially reduce the rate of progression of Parkinson's disease.


Parkinson's research is more organized than ever before and advances are occurring at a rapid pace. The Parkinson's Study Group (PSG) has become the largest collaboration of investigators in the history of Parkinson's research. The PSG is composed of physicians and research coordinators across the United States and Canada who are interested in understanding the causes of Parkinson's disease as well as developing and critically evaluating the effects of new therapies. The PSC; meets as a group annually to discuss the status of ongoing research and to provide a forum to review data from previous trials and discuss ideas for future research endeavors. The Yale Movement Disorders Center is proud to play an active role the PSG.


The knowledge gained and successes made by Parkinson's research were possible only through the involvement of people with PD. The Yale Movement Disorders Center staff would like to extend our warmest thanks to the many individuals involved in Parkinson's disease research and especially to those who have participated locally in our research program at Yale University. We also encourage anyone interested in participating in Parkinson's related research to call us at (203) 764-9095.


From the editor-Stan Wertheimer


This is the second newsletter in our new series. There is something for everyone. We have the announcement of the next meeting of the Connecticut Parkinson Working Group (CPWG)' Dr. Danna Jennings' piece on the Parkinson's Study Group, Nancy Oltheten's candid article on care giving/partnering which will be a great jumping off place for the breakout meeting of partners of PWP, Joan LaRose's essay on humor in clinical trials and Jon Barlow's description of an idea whose time seems to have come. I am grateful to all of the people who have given their time to write their articles; I hope that I may ask others to participate in this way in the future.


Thanks are due to Novartis, and Joe Cretella who works for them and was instrumental in getting a grant of $150 to help support the publication and distribution of this newsletter. Also, it is Jackie Dorwin and her son who takes the edited pages and does what has to be done to reproduce and mail them as a newsletter.


I am particularly excited about the meeting on Saturday, 21 October 2000. The planned breakout session of care givers/partners will be a time for those who often feel unheard to express their feelings to others in the same situation, much as the support group does for PWP. I know how I felt the first time I went to a support group meeting;


~ -^