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Brain gene therapy is beating my Parkinson's

A WOMAN stricken with Parkinson's disease can write for the first time in 15 years after receiving gene therapy.

Sheila Roy is one of only 15 people worldwide to undergo a radical treatment which involves inserting corrective genes into the brain.

Diagnosed with Parkinson's in her 40s, the Englishwoman has struggled with the disease for 17 years.

The symptoms include severe tremors and loss of balance, making simple tasks such as writing impossible.

Doctors at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, England, injected a modified virus carrying the genes directly into the motor centre of her brain. The genes provide the coded instructions for proteins needed to make dopamine, a brain chemical essential for proper control of movement.

Lack of dopamine leads to the symptoms of tremor, stiffness and poor balance associated with Parkinson's.

Mrs Roy is taking part in an early-stage study of the ProSavin therapy developed by Oxford BioMedica focusing mainly on dosing and safety.



GLIMMER

Unlike conventional tablets, the therapy involves just one treatment that does not have to be repeated.

Mrs Roy now says she is starting to see "a glimmer" of the person she was before her illness. Describing her experiences, she said: "Early in 2011 I was rapidly deteriorating.

"My medication was being less effective, there was increased involuntary movement, where I frequently hit myself but also other people, and had a four-second switch from extreme movement to being 'off' and very still.

"This lasted for some time, up to two hours and more and I could do nothing.

"These unpredictable shifts were like a Jekyll And Hyde transition, and outside of my control. At night there was no relief as I had terrible nightmares, and often woke my husband up with screaming or punching him.

"Parkinson's disease changes the ability and capability of the individual affected. You lose confidence, dignity and hope. The ProSavin experience has restored my confidence, enabled better motor function and has given me hope. I can function more normally and, for the first time in 15 years, I can write."

The first trial involved patients with mid-stage Parkinson's who were no longer responding to conventional oral treatments

Mrs Roy and five other patients received a high-dose treatment.

Over three months they showed an average 29pc improvement in motor function. A six-month assessment of another group with a lower dosage had an average improvement of 43pc.

hnews@herald.ie


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