A British woman diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease almost 20 years ago said a fog lifted in her head after corrective genes were injected into her brain.
Sheila Roy, 66, is one of six people in the world who received the radical treatment, which in her case has allowed her to think clearly and quickly again.
Sheila, from Bedfordshire in England, is a patient of Roger Barker of the University of Cambridge.
The two will share their experience of the experimental drug ProSavin at a international conference in NUI Galway later this week.
The viral gene therapy, manufactured by Oxford BioMedica, is undergoing a 10-year clinical trial for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
The once-off treatment, which is injected directly into the brain, induces the production of dopamine, a chemical essential for movement control.
Neurodegenerative diseases are currently treated using drugs that neither address the underlying causes of the disease, nor prevent neurodegeneration.
Sheila, who is married, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1995. She continued to work as a nurse for 10 years until her illness made it impossible for her to continue.
“My medication was becoming less effective,” she said. “I suffered from increased, involuntary movement. My arms and legs would be everywhere and I was slapping myself and anyone who came near me.”
Sometimes her body would suddenly freeze and she would become completely immobile for hours.
Sheila has continued to improve since doctors injected the experimental drug into the motor centre of her brain in 2011.
She can write normally again, and while she cannot walk long distances, she is no longer afraid to walk in crowded places.
“I am so much better, but I am not cured,” she said yesterday.
“I still have problems but I just feel so much better.
“My head it clear. It was like having a fog in my head. I couldn’t think clearly and I couldn’t think quickly.
“I became terribly miserable. Now I laugh a lot and can hold my own in conversation.”
Sheila said it took 11 hours to inject the corrective genes into her brain.
She had been taking dopamine orally. “I was on 10 100mg tablets. I’m down to five a day now,” she said.
She hoped her “very positive” experience would give a lot of people with Parkinson’s disease hope that the disease could be turned around.
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