USF research focuses on Parkinson's disease

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>>

  • Abercrombie dropping logo to boost brand

    Abercrombie dropping logo to boost brand

    Friday, August 29 2014 7:15 AM EDT2014-08-29 11:15:46 GMT
    The Abercrombie & Fitch logo has lost the power it once wielded, so the struggling teen retailer plans to strip off the once-prized logo from its clothing. Shares tumbled Thursday after it reported weak sales as more teens shop elsewhere. 
    The Abercrombie & Fitch logo has lost the power it once wielded, so the struggling teen retailer plans to strip off the once-prized logo from its clothing. Shares tumbled Thursday after it reported weak sales as more teens shop elsewhere. 
  • FBI investigating reports of attacks on US banks

    FBI investigating reports of attacks on US banks

    Thursday, August 28 2014 5:14 AM EDT2014-08-28 09:14:01 GMT
    The FBI said Wednesday it's working with the Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyberattacks against several U.S. financial institutions.
    The FBI said Wednesday it's working with the Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyberattacks against several U.S. financial institutions.
  • Reports: FBI probes JPMorgan hack

    Reports: FBI probes JPMorgan hack

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 9:19 PM EDT2014-08-28 01:19:51 GMT
    Reports: FBI probes JPMorgan hackReports: FBI probes JPMorgan hack
    The FBI is investigating a hacking attack on JPMorgan Chase and at least one other bank, according to reports citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
    The FBI is investigating a hacking attack on JPMorgan Chase and at least one other bank, according to reports citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Fifteen People Arrested In Prostitution Sting

    Fifteen People Arrested In Prostitution Sting

    Thursday, August 28 2014 5:36 PM EDT2014-08-28 21:36:02 GMT
    The Escambia Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Unit conducted an undercover sting operation
    The Escambia Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Unit conducted an undercover sting operation
  • BREAKING: Deadly Accident on I-10 in Grand Bay

    BREAKING: Deadly Accident on I-10 in Grand Bay

    Thursday, August 28 2014 10:39 PM EDT2014-08-29 02:39:53 GMT
    DEVELOPING STORY: News 5 is at the scene of a fatal accident on Interstate-10 eastbound in Grand Bay.
    DEVELOPING STORY: News 5 is at the scene of a fatal accident on Interstate-10 eastbound in Grand Bay.
  • Hurricane Katrina

    Hurricane Katrina

    Hurricane Katrina was the most deadly US hurricane in modern history. It took hundreds of lives and produced record storm surge along the central Gulf Coast.
    Hurricane Katrina was the most deadly US hurricane in modern history. It took hundreds of lives and produced record storm surge along the central Gulf Coast.
Powered by WorldNow

555 Broadcast Dr,
Mobile AL 36606

Telephone: 251.479.5555
Fax: 251.473.8130
Email: news5@wkrg.com

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