Michael J. Fox Foundation calls for more research into nicotine therapies for Parkinson’s Disease

The world-famous actor Michael J. Fox of television fame and the Back to the Future movie franchise is one of millions of Americans currently living with Parkinson’s disease. This disorder of the nervous system usually advances gradually over the span of many years through five different stages of progression much like cancer.

Stage One typically begins with the onset of slight tremors and irregular movements occurring on one side of the body and with certain facial expressions.  Stage Five, the most debilitating phase, can prevent the patient from moving one’s legs and arms, eating, and perhaps even breathing without the assistance of a machine.  People in Stage Five might even begin developing hallucinations and delusions while requiring round-the-clock care.

Related Article: Secret benefits of nicotine that FDA e-cig regulations want to hide

Parkinson’s Disease can strike almost anyone regardless of age or ethnicity.  Michael J. Fox was diagnosed at the young age of 29 while he was filming the movie Doc Hollywood.  In 1998, he made his diagnosis public and immediately jumped into Parkinson’s advocacy.  Shortly thereafter, he launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation with a singular mission of helping to advance scientific research in the effort to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

People don’t die ‘from’ Parkinson’s.  They die ‘with’ Parkinson’s.

In the early days of the organization, the Michael J. Fox Foundation was focusing primarily on stem-cell research as a possible cure, but today its administration is endorsing several areas of medical exploration simultaneously.  One of the more controversial involves nicotine therapies as a potential resource for slowing down the progression of Parkinson’s or perhaps reversing its effects entirely.

“And there’s still much to learn about possible biological connections between nicotine and PD. To date, most human-based data around nicotine and Parkinson’s has been purely epidemiological, says Maurizio Facheris, MD, MSc. This means that there might be other ways to describe the relationship between nicotine and PD that aren’t ‘brain chemically-based.
Here’s one such example of how epidemiological data can return scientific twists and turns: A past study from Matthew Menza, MD, found that people with PD tend to be less likely on the whole to be ‘novelty-seekers,’ possibly because they have less dopamine in the brain (dopamine might inspire people to be more likely to seek out emotional stimuli). These individuals were also more likely to see smoking as a bad idea. On the other hand, the study found, ‘novelty-seekers’ were more likely to take risks such as smoking, and they were also less likely to develop Parkinson’s. In short: Maybe those who are in the early stages of PD are just less likely to smoke because of how their brains are wired.”

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has been actively calling for more research into the areas of nicotine therapies for over five years now, but to be clear, Mr. Fox and his organization are absolutely not suggesting that people diagnosed with Parkinson’s should immediately take up smoking.  Instead, they are encouraging scientists to conduct more studies involving transdermal, intravenous, and perhaps vaping applications for medicinal nicotine alternative therapies.  While most agree that more research is still required, the journal Medical News Today published a similar opinion as recently as 2016. 

Related Article: The science of vaping: Study shows nicotine may have anti-aging effects on the brain

 (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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