USF research focuses on Parkinson's disease - WFLA News Channel 8

USF research focuses on Parkinson's disease

Posted: Updated:
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

New trials at the University of South Florida hope to get to the root of Parkinson's Disease, helping patients live longer, healthier lives.

"We do hope they're groundbreaking," said Dr. Theresa Zesiewicz, Professor of Neurology at USF. "All the medications for Parkinson's right now are symptomatic therapies so they help symptoms, but this is a drug that may work on the root, the mitochondria of the cell, which is the powerhouse of the cell."

Zesiewicz said Parkinson's is one of the only neurodegenerative diseases that can be readily treated with medication.

Case in point is her patient Tammy Robles.  At age 41, her doctors initially couldn't figure out what was happening to her.  Her muscles were very weak. Things got so difficult that she couldn't take care of herself and couldn't walk.

"I could barely feed myself," Tammy remembers.

A pulmonary doctor admitted her into the hospital, where she sat immobile for a week.  Test after test, and doctors still weren't sure what was wrong.

"When doctors don't know - they tend to lean you toward psychiatry," Tammy said.

Eventually, she met Dr. Zesiewicz at USF, and that's when Tammy's life changed.

"To get a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease at 41 years old is a pretty scary thing," Tammy said. "But it was much better than not knowing what was wrong."

Tammy is on SINEMET, the same drug Michael J. Fox used to curb the signs of his Parkinson's, and she's now living life again with her four children and husband. Being able to get out of the wheelchair and care for herself was a life-changing event.

"To be able to do those things again - I'll never take that for granted again," she said.

Some research shows that as many as 40 percent of Parkinson's patients are undiagnosed.  Diagnosing someone under 40 sometimes perplexes medical professionals.

"What's tough is when you have a young person and people don't know what that person has," Dr. Zesiewicz said. "People think that maybe they're making it up - they psychogenic in some way and it's very difficult for them."

Dr. Zesiewicz learned a lot about the disease because of personal experience. Her mother lived with the disease for 20 years before she died at age 86.

"At the end, it wasn't pretty," she remembers. "There's so much to this disease in terms of memory problems."

Dr. Zesiewicz, whose area of research extends beyond Parkinson's to other disorders like Essential tremor, has just finished her third book this year. She says about 10 to 15 percent of patients are under 40 and long-term care can become tricky because Parkinson's drugs can have side effects and it gets harder and harder for doctors to "hit the target zone."

"What we don't have is a cure," Dr. Zesiewicz said. "I can't give you a drug today and slow down your disease over the long-term."

To read more about Parkinson's Disease and movement disorders, click here.

 

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Outpouring of support for New Port Richey soldier dealing with squatters

    Outpouring of support for New Port Richey soldier dealing with squatters

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 1:21 PM EDT2014-04-23 17:21:16 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community. Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to the soldier.
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community. Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to the soldier.
  • Pricey processing issue at Tampa hair academy resolved

    Pricey processing issue at Tampa hair academy resolved

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:35 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:35:13 GMT
    Loretta Maloy says she always expected to pay for the courses she took those several weeks, but thought $10,000 in loans just wasn’t right.
    Loretta Maloy says she always expected to pay for the courses she took those several weeks, but thought $10,000 in loans just wasn’t right.
  • New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 8:58 AM EDT2014-04-23 12:58:50 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
     When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
    When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
  • NewsMore>>

  • TPD homicide detective subject of federal probe

    TPD homicide detective subject of federal probe

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:02 PM EDT2014-04-23 22:02:03 GMT
    File photo: TPD homicide Detective Eric HoustonFile photo: TPD homicide Detective Eric Houston
    Tampa police detective Eric Houston is one of the investigators who worked the crime scene at the New Tampa home of Julie Schenecker. She's the mother accused of killing her two teenaged children.
    Tampa police detective Eric Houston is one of the investigators who worked the crime scene at the New Tampa home of Julie Schenecker. She's the mother accused of killing her two teenaged children.
  • Home alone: Sarasota kids help deputies catch burglary suspects

    Home alone: Sarasota kids help deputies catch burglary suspects

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 5:57 PM EDT2014-04-23 21:57:07 GMT
    Burglary suspects from left to right: Marcus Felder, Darian Jones, Trevor Jackson and Gary Saulby. Sarasota Co. Jail booking photosBurglary suspects from left to right: Marcus Felder, Darian Jones, Trevor Jackson and Gary Saulby. Sarasota Co. Jail booking photos
    Some quick-thinking kids in Sarasota are being credited for helping sheriff's deputies catch a group of burglary suspects who investigators say broke into the kids' home.
    Some quick-thinking kids in Sarasota are being credited for helping sheriff's deputies catch a group of burglary suspects who investigators say broke into the kids' home.
  • Homicide under investigation in Plant City

    Homicide under investigation in Plant City

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 5:49 PM EDT2014-04-23 21:49:24 GMT
    Plant City Police are investigating a murder on South Maryland Ave. Wednesday afternoonPlant City Police are investigating a murder on South Maryland Ave. Wednesday afternoon
    Plant City Police are investigating a homicide that occurred Wednesday afternoon at 516 South Maryland Avenue.
    Plant City Police are investigating a homicide that occurred Wednesday afternoon at 516 South Maryland Avenue.
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Woman claims pedicure crossed the line

    Woman claims pedicure crossed the line

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 11:45 PM EDT2014-04-23 03:45:39 GMT
    A Shreveport woman said a nail tech from Style Nails in Shreveport crossed the line during a pedicure, and that she has cell phone video to prove it.
    A Shreveport woman said a nail tech from Style Nails in Shreveport crossed the line during a pedicure, and that she has cell phone video to prove it.
  • Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 18:49:19 GMT
    Image from CNN/KHOU-TVImage from CNN/KHOU-TV
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
  • Search halted for missing Gaboon Viper

    Search halted for missing Gaboon Viper

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 7:08 PM EDT2014-04-22 23:08:20 GMT
    The missing viper could still be out there, but the search has been halted for safety concerns.
    The missing viper could still be out there, but the search has been halted for safety concerns.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.