Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research CEO Todd Sherer, a neuroscientist, talks about the state of Parkinson's disease and research.
Neuroscientist Todd Sherer, CEO of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Fox, of course, is the actor who has become the public face of Parkinson’s.
“And mostly its symptoms are characterized by motor symptoms. So patients or people who have Parkinson’s will have a slowness of movement, they could have a tremor in their arms, a lot of trouble walking and they can also have rigidity, so it’s hard to really bend and flex their muscles and limbs. That’s the predominant symptoms that people have.”
April 11th is World Parkinson’s Day. So designated because it’s the birthday of Dr. James Parkinson, who described the condition 200 years ago, in 1817. I spoke to Sherer April 10th.
“I think one of the things that has changed a lot about, in Parkinson’s disease in the last decade and I do think a lot of this is because of the work of Michael J. Fox, is really raising awareness about this disease. Parkinson’s disease is something that people live with. It’s part of their life, but they are able to live with this and be productive and make great contributions to the world and also the contributions that they can make towards the search for a cure. So I think by raising awareness it can help people who have the disease today and their families deal with the disease, get the right information and the right treatments, and then also draw more attention on the need that we have for research and funds to support research, and the direction that we’re moving in that research.”
SM: And how many people in America and/or worldwide, what’s a best guest estimate?
“The best guess is that there’s about a million people in the United States with Parkinson’s and probably about four [million] to five million worldwide…the greatest risk factor for getting Parkinson’s is being 60 years of age…so I think it’s also important to shine a lot on these age-related neurological diseases because we do have an aging population and now is the time to really invest in the research to try to get out in front of that challenge and develop new treatments, particularly transformative therapies.”
The full conversation with Sherer will appear as a Science Talk podcast in the coming days. And look for an essay by Sherer on the Scientific American website scheduled for publication at noon on April 12th, as well as the April 10th article on the site titled Cell Therapy 2.0: Reprogramming the Brain’s Own Cells for Parkinson’s Treatment.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]