Navigation

Science Snippet: Is it a Miracle?

A miracle? At 42 years old, M.P. was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease. He gradually deteriorated and as he fought the disease it became difficult for him to write, talk and walk. He learned that the disorder is caused by the loss of neurons in a particular part of the brain. Specifically, a part that produces the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is involved in movement. After struggling with Parkinson’s for seven years, he read about an experimental treatment where surgeons cut two holes in the skull, and inject a drug called Neurturin into the brain. In Parkinsonian monkeys, Neurturin had been shown to halt progression of the disease and perhaps repair damaged neurons. M.P. enrolled in a Neurturin trial where half the volunteers were injected with saline and the other half received Neurturin. The doctors didn’t know what they injected to prevent bias. After the procedure M.P.’s hands stopped shaking, his mobility improved, and his speech returned. In other words, he was recovering from Parkinson’s disease. Today he is normal again. His doctor was astonished by the change. No one had ever been cured of this disease! Both doctor and M.P. experienced mixed emotions when they learned that M.P. had received the saline, not Neurturin. A miracle? Perhaps, but the placebo effect is known for its miracles. (National Geographic, Dec. 2016).