According to a story from Parkinson’s News Today, a recent analysis of Parkinson’s disease research showed that scientists would benefit from relying less on animal models and instead should focus their efforts towards more advanced computer modeling approaches. The authors also said that it would be valuable to work with human tissue and cells in future Parkinson’s disease research as well.
About Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a type of long term, progressive, degenerative illness that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms tend to develop over a period of years and primarily affect the movement ability and mental state of the patient. The cause of Parkinson’s disease remains a mystery, although there are a number of risk factors that have been identified. These factors include head injuries, pesticide exposure, and certain genetic variants and mutations. About 15 percent of patients have a close relative with the disease, suggesting some genetic connection. Symptoms include slowed movements, poor coordination, trouble walking, shaking, stiffness, abnormal posture, depression, anxiety, inhibited thinking, hallucinations, and dementia. Treatment may involve a number of medications, rehabilitation, and surgical operations. Survival rate varies, but most patients survive around a decade after getting diagnosed. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, click here.
Moving Away From Animal Models
The study was conducted by researchers associated with the Humane Society. The primary goal of the analysis was to review the state of Parkinson’s disease animal models in order to highlight their advantages and weaknesses. Ultimately, the authors concluded that approaches to reduce reliance on animal model research would be most beneficial in the long run.
The researchers also discussed the fact that, at this juncture, many of the most popular treatments for the disease, such as the drug levodopa and deep brain stimulation (a type of surgical operation), are effective at providing relief from symptoms but do nothing to address the underlying brain cell death that allows the disease to continue progressing. This may very well be linked to the disadvantages in animal models. Degeneration is already advanced by the time symptoms become noticeable, which automatically has shifted much of the treatment and drug development focus to addressing symptoms.
At the end of the day, animal models have been unable to fully replicate the signs and symptoms of the disease as it is found in humans, particularly in the early stages. Ultimately, future research needs to focus on human models, cells and tissue in order to leave the weaknesses of animal models behind. You can look at the original study here.