Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Parkinson's Disease Health Center

Font Size

Brains at Work Against Parkinson's Disease

WebMD Health News

April 18, 2001 (Philadelphia) -- When actor Michael J. Fox retired from the sitcom Spin City last January, he made a commitment to focus his energies on aiding research for Parkinson's disease, an illness he was diagnosed with in 1991. His foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, says a cure for this disabling brain disease can be found in 10 years. So how close are researchers to curing Parkinson's?

Want to talk with others who have Parkinson's disease? Join one of the many discussions ongoing in our Parkinson's Disease community.

A Parkinson's disease "summit" this month at Thomas Jefferson University brought those coping with the disease face-to-face with top scientists looking for clues about causes of the disease -- and remedies.

All approaches being explored for new Parkinson's disease treatments carry promise, but several fields of research have had major setbacks -- reducing hopes for any imminent, dramatic breakthroughs.

More than 500,000 Americans suffer from Parkinson's disease, and about 50,000 new cases are reported annually, according to the National Institutes of Health. The numbers may be larger than what is reported, because diagnosis -- especially early on -- can be difficult.

Parkinson's is a progressive, long-term brain disease with no cure. Current drug therapies only treat the disease's symptoms, which can include body tremors, a shuffling gait, slowed movements, rigidity, and even difficulty opening the mouth to eat or speak. These problems can prompt additional complications such as depression and anxiety.

Others who suffer from the disease include former Attorney General Janet Reno, Muhammad Ali, and possibly Pope John Paul II.

The disease results from the death of brain cells that control the body's movement, those that produce the chemical dopamine. There are Parkinson's drugs on the market, but their benefit diminishes over time. Once the disease has progressed so much that there is little natural dopamine left in the brain, the medications' effectiveness plummets.

Two highly controversial brain-restorative approaches -- gene therapy and cell transplants -- garner most of the Parkinson's research spotlight. But some researchers are examining ways to protect the brain from losing the cells in the first place.

Jay Schneider, PhD, director of the Parkinson's disease research unit at Thomas Jefferson, says, "Gene therapy and stem cell replacement therapies may still be years away. We still have patients now that we need to take care of."

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Parkinsons disease illustration
Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
hands on walker
How does the disease progress?
man with serious expression
8 common questions and answers.
intelligence quotient illustration
What are the advantages of DBS?
Parkinsons Disease Medications
Questions Doctor Parkinsons
Eating Right
Parkinsons Exercise
daughter consoling depressed mother
senior man's hands
Parkinsons Daily