Sunday May 26, 2019

Novel Treatment Offers Promise to Stop Parkinson’s

After nine months, there was no change in the PET scans of those who received placebo. On the other hand, the group who received GDNF showed an improvement of 100 per cent in a key area of the brain affected in the condition

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10 million people living worldwide suffer from Parkinson;s disease Pixabay
10 million people living worldwide suffer from Parkinson;s disease Pixabay

An experimental treatment that delivers a drug directly to the brain has shown promise for slowing, stopping, or even reversing Parkinson’s disease, say researchers.

The study, by a team led by University of Bristol researchers, in a clinical trial investigated whether the treatment called Glial Cell Line Derived Neurotrophic Factor (GDNF) — a natural protein, found in the brain — can regenerate dying dopamine brain cells in patients with Parkinson’s and reverse their condition, something no existing treatment can do.

The results potentially demonstrated that the new treatment was starting to reawaken and restore damaged brain cells and that repeated brain infusion is clinically feasible and tolerable, according in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

The study “represents some of the most compelling evidence yet that we may have a means to possibly reawaken and restore the dopamine brain cells that are gradually destroyed in Parkinson’s”, said principal investigator Alan L. Whone, from the University of Bristol in the UK.

After an initial safety study of six people, 35 individuals were enrolled in the nine-month double blind trial, in which half were randomly assigned to receive monthly infusions of GDNF and the other half placebo infusions.

Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s Disease Gets Awareness From Various Events. Flickr

All participants underwent robot-assisted surgery to have four tubes placed into their brains, which allowed GDNF or placebo to be infused directly to the affected areas with pinpoint accuracy, via a port in their head.

After implantation the team administered, more than 1,000 brain infusions, once every four weeks.

After nine months, there was no change in the PET scans of those who received placebo. On the other hand, the group who received GDNF showed an improvement of 100 per cent in a key area of the brain affected in the condition.

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“This trial has shown that we can safely and repeatedly infuse drugs directly into patients’ brains over months or years,” said Steven Gill, lead neurosurgeon at North Bristol NHS Trust, Bristol, UK

“This is a significant breakthrough in our ability to treat neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s, because most drugs that might work cannot cross from the blood stream into the brain due to a natural protective barrier.” (IANS)

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Kim Jong Un’s Doctor For The Right Price, North Korea Hospitals Work For Money

“The hospitals are for privileged people, but since state support is so small, they would be difficult to run properly without extra money from ordinary patients,”

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In this Feb. 20, 2013 photo, a doctor speaks on a phone at the reception area of a newly-built breast cancer research facility at Pyongyang Maternity Hospital in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder). RFA

A medical facility specifically catering North Korea’s privileged elites has been forced to open its doors to common citizens in exchange for bribes, in an effort to stem financial difficulties, sources say.

Pyongyang’s Bonghwa Medical Center offers top-notch medical care, but has officially only been available to Kim Jong Un and Workers’ Party officials of the highest ranks.

Now strapped for cash, the hospital will admit anyone who greases the palms of the right people. While health care is officially free for all citizens, hospitals for elites, like Bongwha are a step above what citizens typically have access to.

“My nephew is a doctor and he has been suffering from stomach problems for more than 10 years. He was [recently] treated at Bonghwa Medical Center and has been healed completely,” said a source from North Pyongan province in an interview with RFA’s Korean Service.

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In 2010, the World Health Organization controversially described North Korea’s universal health care system as “the envy of the developing world,” contradicting a report from Amnesty International that same year that said the country’s hospitals were barely functioning and unable to deal with epidemics and rampant malnutrition. Pixabay

“It cost him a lot of money to get treated [there], but now I have come to realize that money can do anything,” said the source.

The source said Bonghwa is known as “the best hospital in the Republic,” and that it is reserved for politically important people, expressing disgust that it could now be bought into.

“It is surprising that ordinary people can [get] medical treatment [there] if they bribe them. I feel bitter because there’s nothing money can’t do in this society,” said the source.

The source noted that bribery is not unique to Bonghwa — other well-regarded hospitals are doing the same.

“Well-known hospitals in Pyongyang, including Kim Man-yu Hospital, Namsan Hospital, and the Red Cross Hospital are treating a number of ordinary patients from other regions. They are getting medical treatment because they have bribed high-rank officials,” said the source.

The source said that patients of Bonghwa and the other hospitals have access to medicines that aren’t available to the general public, but these too come with a hefty price tag for the patients who have bribed their way in.

“Since they are not high-ranking officials, ordinary patients have to pay a lot for these prescription drugs. It’s like the hospitals are earning foreign cash off patients,” the source said.

Even if a patient has the means to get into the good hospitals, the level of care can still differ depending on how much was paid in bribe.

“If you give a large amount, they will even treat you better than a high-ranking official from the Central Committee [of the Workers’ Party.]”

A North Korean defector surnamed Lee who settled in South Korea confirmed the North Korean medical industry’s state of affairs.

“In the past, hospitals that have been designated only for high-ranking officials in Pyongyang have ignored their mandate and provided care to ordinary patients,” said Lee, adding, “Without taking bribes from these people, it would be difficult for hospitals to stay open, and for doctors to make an actual living.”

“That’s just how things are in the North Korean medical industry,” said Lee.

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“It cost him a lot of money to get treated [there], but now I have come to realize that money can do anything,” said the source. Pixabay
“Medical equipment and hospital supplies provided by the outside world, supposedly as humanitarian aid, all go to these elite hospitals,” said Lee.

“The hospitals are for privileged people, but since state support is so small, they would be difficult to run properly without extra money from ordinary patients,” Lee said.

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In 2010, the World Health Organization controversially described North Korea’s universal health care system as “the envy of the developing world,” contradicting a report from Amnesty International that same year that said the country’s hospitals were barely functioning and unable to deal with epidemics and rampant malnutrition.

In February, The New Humanitarian published a report describing North Korea’s “silent health crisis,” which acknowledged a recent improvement in public health within the country, but described its health system as inadequate. The Geneva-based news outlet founded by the United Nations said that a formal peace agreement with the United States and South Korea would not in and of itself improve North Korea’s health care situation. (IANS)