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“Chris’ approach has been to delve into novel molecular mechanisms,” she said. “These mechanisms have a strong potential to provide insight into new clinical approaches that could prolong therapeutic treatment and lessen side effects associated with L-DOPA therapy in Parkinson’s disease.”

In 2008, Bishop and his team received a $1.33 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health. The funding will allow Bishop and his team to study serotonin compounds that reduce glutamate following L-DOPA treatment. Bishop hopes to find out how these compounds work — and what dyskinesia really is.

Early experimentation has supported Bishop’s theories, showing a reduction in dyskinesia as the serotonin compound is administered.


“Dr. Bishop’s research is important because he has focused on a brain chemical transmission system that may represent a new therapeutic target for treatment of L-DOPA-induced dyskinesias,” said Beth-Anne Sieber, a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “His NINDS funded studies suggest that activation of a receptor for the neurotransmitter serotonin can block overactive brain signals and dampen involuntary movements.”

Bishop said he believes L-DOPA treatment will remain in the mix of therapies, even if other advances such as stem-cell transplants advance to a point where they can be used regularly.

The situation is an increasingly urgent medical concern; 50,000 more Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year. “That’s only going to increase as our population ages,” Bishop said. “This is not something that’s going away.

— Rachel Coker


Parkinson’s disease belongs to a group of conditions called motorsystem disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. The four primary symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia, or slowness of movement; and postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination.

Parkinson’s usually affects people over the age of 50. Early symptoms are subtle and occur gradually. The diagnosis is based on medical history and a neurological examination. The disease can be difficult to diagnose accurately. Roughly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year.

There are many theories about the cause of Parkinson’s disease, but none has ever been proved. At present, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, but medications provide many patients dramatic relief from the symptoms.

The disease is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time. Although some people become severely disabled, others experience only minor motor disruptions.

Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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