USF research focuses on Parkinson's disease - WRBL

USF research focuses on Parkinson's disease

Posted: Updated:
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

New trials at the University of South Florida hope to get to the root of Parkinson's Disease, helping patients live longer, healthier lives.

"We do hope they're groundbreaking," said Dr. Theresa Zesiewicz, Professor of Neurology at USF. "All the medications for Parkinson's right now are symptomatic therapies so they help symptoms, but this is a drug that may work on the root, the mitochondria of the cell, which is the powerhouse of the cell."

Zesiewicz said Parkinson's is one of the only neurodegenerative diseases that can be readily treated with medication.

Case in point is her patient Tammy Robles.  At age 41, her doctors initially couldn't figure out what was happening to her.  Her muscles were very weak. Things got so difficult that she couldn't take care of herself and couldn't walk.

"I could barely feed myself," Tammy remembers.

A pulmonary doctor admitted her into the hospital, where she sat immobile for a week.  Test after test, and doctors still weren't sure what was wrong.

"When doctors don't know - they tend to lean you toward psychiatry," Tammy said.

Eventually, she met Dr. Zesiewicz at USF, and that's when Tammy's life changed.

"To get a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease at 41 years old is a pretty scary thing," Tammy said. "But it was much better than not knowing what was wrong."

Tammy is on SINEMET, the same drug Michael J. Fox used to curb the signs of his Parkinson's, and she's now living life again with her four children and husband. Being able to get out of the wheelchair and care for herself was a life-changing event.

"To be able to do those things again - I'll never take that for granted again," she said.

Some research shows that as many as 40 percent of Parkinson's patients are undiagnosed.  Diagnosing someone under 40 sometimes perplexes medical professionals.

"What's tough is when you have a young person and people don't know what that person has," Dr. Zesiewicz said. "People think that maybe they're making it up - they psychogenic in some way and it's very difficult for them."

Dr. Zesiewicz learned a lot about the disease because of personal experience. Her mother lived with the disease for 20 years before she died at age 86.

"At the end, it wasn't pretty," she remembers. "There's so much to this disease in terms of memory problems."

Dr. Zesiewicz, whose area of research extends beyond Parkinson's to other disorders like Essential tremor, has just finished her third book this year. She says about 10 to 15 percent of patients are under 40 and long-term care can become tricky because Parkinson's drugs can have side effects and it gets harder and harder for doctors to "hit the target zone."

"What we don't have is a cure," Dr. Zesiewicz said. "I can't give you a drug today and slow down your disease over the long-term."

To read more about Parkinson's Disease and movement disorders, click here.

 

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Are background checks enough for Florida teachers?

    Are background checks enough for Florida teachers?

    Friday, April 18 2014 7:41 PM EDT2014-04-18 23:41:35 GMT

    In an effort to weed out potential perverts, Florida law requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks before school districts hire employees that will have any contact with children.

    In an effort to weed out potential perverts, Florida law requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks before school districts hire employees that will have any contact with children.


  • Pasco mix-up sends registration notices to wrong drivers

    Pasco mix-up sends registration notices to wrong drivers

    Friday, April 18 2014 6:02 PM EDT2014-04-18 22:02:51 GMT
    The vehicle registration information of hundreds of drivers in Pasco County were sent to the wrong person in a mix-up that led to the firing of a contractor.
    The vehicle registration information of hundreds of drivers in Pasco County were sent to the wrong person in a mix-up that led to the firing of a contractor.
  • Flushable wipes, not so flushable says Tampa's wastewater officials

    Flushable wipes, not so flushable says Tampa's wastewater officials

    Friday, April 18 2014 3:52 PM EDT2014-04-18 19:52:20 GMT
    Personal wipes, baby wipes, face wipes, flushable wipes. They are all designed to help us deal with delicate issues. But the wipes themselves are actually pretty sturdy and increasingly local water systems are finding they are creating costly problems.
    Personal wipes, baby wipes, face wipes, flushable wipes. They are all designed to help us deal with delicate issues. But the wipes themselves are actually pretty sturdy and increasingly local water systems are finding they are creating costly problems.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter dies at 76

    Boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter dies at 76

    Sunday, April 20 2014 2:22 PM EDT2014-04-20 18:22:44 GMT
    Former midddleweight boxer Rubin Carter has died. (Source: Flickr) Former midddleweight boxer Rubin Carter has died. (Source: Flickr)
    Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the boxer whose wrongful murder conviction became an international symbol of racial injustice, has died at 76.
    By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the boxer whose wrongful murder conviction became an international symbol of racial injustice, died Sunday. He was 76.
  • Good Samaritan renders aid to man in Tarpon Springs crash

    Good Samaritan renders aid to man in Tarpon Springs crash

    Sunday, April 20 2014 1:16 PM EDT2014-04-20 17:16:38 GMT
    The crash occurred on Keystone Rd. in Tarpon Springs on Saturday night. The crash occurred on Keystone Rd. in Tarpon Springs on Saturday night.
    A Good Samaritan helped save the life of a 52-year-old Holiday man Saturday night after he lost control of his vehicle and landed in a pond in Tarpon Springs.Richard Fenton was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa where he is listed in serious condition.
    A Good Samaritan helped save the life of a 52-year-old Holiday man Saturday night after he lost control of his vehicle and landed in a pond in Tarpon Springs.Richard Fenton was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa where he is listed in serious condition.
  • Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout in east

    Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout in east

    Sunday, April 20 2014 1:03 PM EDT2014-04-20 17:03:52 GMT
    The Ukrainian and Russian governments are reporting a shootout at a checkpoint set up by pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine that has left one person dead and others hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
    Within hours of an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming militant Ukrainian nationalists and Russian state...
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by WorldNow

1350 13th Avenue
Columbus, GA 31901

Telephone: 706.323.3333
Fax: 706.327.6655
Email: news@wrbl.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.