Die Suche nach den Ursachen von Parkinson

JOHANNESBURG – Parkinson ist eine neurodegenerative Erkrankung, von der weltweit etwa sieben Millionen Menschen betroffen sind, davon eine Million allein in den Vereinigten Staaten. In der Regel erkranken Menschen im Alter von über 50 Jahren. In der Altersgruppe über 65 Jahre sind 2% von Parkinson betroffen und 5-10% der Fälle treten bei Personen unter 50 Jahren auf. Die Ursache ist nach wie vor unbekannt, was uns daran hindert, das Fortschreiten der Krankheit aufzuhalten – doch in jüngsten Forschungsergebnissen spielen berufsbedingte und Umweltfaktoren eine große Rolle.

Beschreibungen eines ähnlichen Leidens finden sich bereits um 1000 vor Christus in chinesischen und indischen Aufzeichnungen. Es war jedoch James Parkinson, der die Krankheit im Jahr 1817 erstmals ausführlich beschrieben hat. Menschen, die an Parkinson erkranken, leiden unter verlangsamten Bewegungen, Muskelzittern, Steifheit, Schwierigkeiten beim Gehen und Haltungsinstabilität. Die fortschreitende Erkrankung kann das Denken beeinträchtigen und zudem psychische Probleme und Verhaltensauffälligkeiten verursachen, unter anderem Demenz, Schlafstörungen und Depression sowie niedrigen Blutdruck. Obwohl viele dieser Symptome gelindert werden können, lässt die therapeutische Wirksamkeit im Lauf der Zeit oftmals nach.

Die Symptome sind auf den Verlust von Nervenzellen im Gehirn zurückzuführen, die den Neurotransmitter Dopamin herstellen. Viele Studien zeigen, dass dem Absterben dieser Zellen ein Zellverlust in anderen Gehirnregionen und sogar von Nervenzellen im Magen-Darm-System vorausgeht. Dies geschieht Jahrzehnte bevor sich Einschränkungen der motorischen Funktionen entwickeln.

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