Research review of Parkinson's disease.
Afflicting over one million Americans, Parkinson's disease is one of the most devastating neuro-degenerative diseases in the world. A British physician, James Parkinson, first discovered this disease while observing people on the streets of London. He noted that certain individuals suffered from a tremor, which, along with muscle weakness, became worse with time. Even with standardized neurological examination by doctors today, Parkinson's disease is still only detectible through careful observation of the patient. It was not until the late nineteenth century in which physicians finally began to understand the anatomy and physiology of Parkinson's disease. .
Throughout the past decade the knowledge base for Parkinson's disease has increased tremendously. Parkinson's disease has now been identified and cataloged by the medical community as a serious and potentially fatal neuro-degenerative disease. The disease's symptoms, possible causes, mechanisms, and cures have been researched and studied by innumerable scientists and organizations.
Parkinson's disease occurs when certain nerve cells, or neurons, in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra die or become impaired. Normally, these neurons produce an important brain chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger responsible for transmitting signals between the substantia nigra and the next "relay station" of the brain, the corpus striatum, to produce smooth, purposeful muscle activity. Loss of dopamine causes the nerve cells of the striatum to fire out of control, leaving patients unable to direct or control their movements in a normal manner. Parkinson's disease is the second most common neuro-degenerative disease after Alzheimer's disease. .
Even with all of the recent advancements in the field, the exact etiology of Parkinson's disease is still undecided. Recent research has identified that the culprit may be due to neurotoxins, genetics, or cell death caused by abnormalities in the brain.