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>>

  • Community reaches out to Spring Hill family after theft of lawn equipment

    Community reaches out to Spring Hill family after theft of lawn equipment

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:41 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:41:35 GMT
    Michael Depace wants to say "thank you" and give a huge hug to everyone that reached out after a thief stole $3,500 worth of lawn equipment from him.
    Michael Depace wants to say "thank you" and give a huge hug to everyone that reached out after a thief stole $3,500 worth of lawn equipment from him.
  • FL vehicle registration renewal fees drop

    FL vehicle registration renewal fees drop

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:48 AM EDT2014-09-01 15:48:49 GMT
    That little gift you get from the state on your birthday every year, to renew your car tag, is going to be cheaper starting Monday.  The cut will save drivers about $13 to $25 depending on the size of their vehicle.
    That little gift you get from the state on your birthday every year, to renew your car tag, is going to be cheaper starting Monday.  The cut will save drivers about $13 to $25 depending on the size of their vehicle.
  • Mold takes over St. Pete condo, creeps into neighbors' homes

    Mold takes over St. Pete condo, creeps into neighbors' homes

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:48 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:48:06 GMT
    Josephine Ramos is literally sick about the toxic black mold growing in the St. Petersburg condominium beside hers. She's been feeling ill for months with headaches and breathing problems. Recently, she had peak inside the condo next doors and couldn't believe her eyes.
    Josephine Ramos is literally sick about the toxic black mold growing in the St. Petersburg condominium beside hers. She's been feeling ill for months with headaches and breathing problems. Recently, she had peak inside the condo next doors and couldn't believe her eyes.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Pasco County couple survive a week adrift at sea

    Pasco County couple survive a week adrift at sea

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 12:17 AM EDT2014-09-02 04:17:17 GMT
    A Pasco county couple is recovering after spending a week adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. They were trapped 80 miles off shore without any food and very little water for seven days.
    A Pasco county couple is recovering after spending a week adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. They were trapped 80 miles off shore without any food and very little water for seven days.
  • Palm Harbor strip club hit & run victim makes plea

    Palm Harbor strip club hit & run victim makes plea

    Monday, September 1 2014 9:33 PM EDT2014-09-02 01:33:46 GMT
    New video shows the violent incident early Friday morning, outside "Silks" strip club on US 19 in Palm Harbor. Bouncer Doug Berube and the club DJ. wanted to talk to a guy in a car about an earlier incident. The driver shoved it in reverse, hit the gas, and backed over Berube. He has a plea for the driver....
    New video shows the violent incident early Friday morning, outside "Silks" strip club on US 19 in Palm Harbor. Bouncer Doug Berube and the club DJ. wanted to talk to a guy in a car about an earlier incident. The driver shoved it in reverse, hit the gas, and backed over Berube. He has a plea for the driver....
  • Land O' Lakes man: troopers saved my life

    Land O' Lakes man: troopers saved my life

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:41 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:41:51 GMT
    A Pasco County man credits two Florida Highway Patrol troopers with saving his life. A Pasco County man credits two Florida Highway Patrol troopers with saving his life.
    Chris Henry calls two Florida Highway Patrol Troopers heroes. He believes they saved his life.
    Chris Henry calls two Florida Highway Patrol Troopers heroes. He believes they saved his life.
  • 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>>

  • Restaurant Ratings Most Violations: August 18 - 23

    Restaurant Ratings Most Violations: August 18 - 23

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:58 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:58:28 GMT
    Ever wonder what goes on in the kitchen of your favorite restaurants?
    Ever wonder what goes on in the kitchen of your favorite restaurants?
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium plans to drop animal shows

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium plans to drop animal shows

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:09 AM EDT2014-09-01 15:09:15 GMT
    Aug. 3, 2011 file photo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium senior marine mammal trainer Abby Stone works with Winter the dolphin in Clearwater, Image APAug. 3, 2011 file photo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium senior marine mammal trainer Abby Stone works with Winter the dolphin in Clearwater, Image AP
    No animal performances will be held at a redesigned aquatic center planned by the Florida aquarium featured in the "Dolphin Tale" movies.
    No animal performances will be held at a redesigned aquatic center planned by the Florida aquarium featured in the "Dolphin Tale" movies.
  • Bubba 'The Love Sponge' to announce new Tampa gig

    Bubba 'The Love Sponge' to announce new Tampa gig

    Monday, September 1 2014 3:09 PM EDT2014-09-01 19:09:07 GMT
    File photo of Bubba the Love Sponge ClemFile photo of Bubba the Love Sponge Clem
    Bubba "The Love Sponge" announced on his Twitter page Monday that he will soon have a new Tampa home.
    Bubba "The Love Sponge" announced on his Twitter page Monday that he will soon have a new Tampa home.
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.