I have been working on my ethics assignment and doing some research into the ethics of stem cell research. This lead me to look into Parkinson’s disesase. This is what I have learnt so far:

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease caused by the body not producing enough dopamine which is needed for the smooth flow of muscle movement. The symptoms are therefore rigidity of muscular movement and tremors which can be expected to increase as the disease progresses. It is a neurological condition.

Using stem cell research technologies scientists extract particular cells from embryos and manipulate them into developing into nerve cells which can produce dopamine. These cells can then be transplanted into the patient. So far scientists haven’t been able to produce the nerve cells in such a way as to produce pure dopamine and be complete effective. Some doubt they ever will; others feel better results are be obtained from using stem cells obtained from adults called IPS (induced pluripotent stem cells). Meanwhile research is continuing in other areas to create better drug treatments of symptoms as well as looking at other ways of curing the disease. However it seems that any cure is a long way off.

Michael Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1997 and several years later formed a foundation to raise funds for research into Parkinson’s disease and other neurological diseases. Fox was 30 years old when diagnosed. This is well below average and it is rare for people to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease before they are 50. As a high profile celebrity Fox has been able to raise significant funds to put towards research. By being a sufferer himself and at such a young age he has been able to present strong emotional arguments for in favour of stem cell research and he has been influential in this area.