Feature Archive

Parkinson's Disease: The Cutting Edge

Experts explain how new research and new drugs offer Parkinson's disease patients more options than ever -- and exciting new treatments to come. 

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

Some famous faces have recently focused our attention on the progressive neurological disease known as Parkinson's disease. Most notable among them are Pope John Paul II, actor Michael J. Fox, and former Attorney General Janet Reno.

But now, doctors say some cutting-edge treatments may soon take center stage. Among the new discoveries: a transdermal skin patch for round-the-clock symptom control; two new surgical procedures for treating advanced disease; and a brand new way of diagnosing Parkinson's disease long before the movement disorder begins to show its signs.

"It's vital for patients and their families to know that we are moving forward every day, and every day we are learning more about this illness," says Michael Kaplitt, MD, PhD, director of Movement Disorders Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

A progressive neurological disease affecting some 500,000 Americans, Parkinson's disease involves the early death of nerve cells that manufacture dopamine. This is a chemical transmitter that stimulates muscles to move in a smooth and coordinated way.