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Brain disease breakthrough.

Byline: Neville Dean

DOCTORS have developed a pioneering surgical procedure which could provide a breakthrough in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

A team led by Dr Steven Gill, a consultant neurosurgeon at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, believe they have discovered a way of revrsing the deterioration of t brain and restoring movement in patients with the disease.

The surgery, which involves the doctors pumping a growth factor called Glial derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) into the brain, has so far been performed on five patients.

North Bristol Healthcare Trust, which runs Frenchay Hospital, said preliminary results showed all five patients experienced marked improvement in their symptoms following the surgery, with most noticing significant changes in their ability to talk, walk and laugh.

This is the first time that such improvement in a chronic neurological disease has occurred following infusion of a growth factor. If further trials are successful, the treatment could become more widely available in the next four to five years.

Dr Gill's team now believe they can reverse the degenerative effects of the disease by using GDNF - a growth factor essential to the development of the nerve cells which use a chemical called dopamine to transmit impulses from the brain to the muscles.

In the procedure, catheters are implanted in the part of the brain of a Parkinson's sufferer which controls movement and is deficient in dopamine. The catheters are connected to pumps, which are filled with GDNF and continuously infuse the growth factor to this area of the brain.

The hospital trust stressed that the treatment was still in its infancy.

Roger Nelson, 51, a former marketing director and marathon runner, said he has been able to talk, walk, laugh and enjoy life in a way that he had not been able to do for many years.

"I had the operation on the Friday, and by Sunday lunchtime I could smell, '' he said.

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TREATED: Roger Nelson
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 19, 2002
Words:320
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