Would you believe, he told us at our Parkinson’s Support Group meeting to take our daily antioxidants and low dose aspirin.  He is Mark L. Weiss, Ph.D. whose life is centered on doing research on the potential of what is called Wharton’s Jelly.  Wharton’s Jelly is found in umbilical cords, a non-controversial source of stem cells.  Let me add immediately that Dr. Mark pointed out that he is not a medical doctor but a Ph.D. Any choices we make concerning medicine, even over the counter medicines should be checked out with our medical doctor.  He did say that it seemed pretty safe to suggest doing what every doctor and most everyone else also suggests, that we take antioxidants and low dose aspirin.

His encouragement to do so comes with the answer to the question, why?  Parkinson’s disease is caused by the death of the neuron cells in the brain that produce dopamine.  What kills those cells is an oxidant as in “anti”oxidant.  What first popped into my mind when I heard that was, broccoli wins again.  Eat those antioxidants.

The process that sends those killer oxidants on the attack is inflammation. Oddly, one of the hints that inflammation can play into the process that produces Parkinson’s Disease came after the flu epidemic of 1918.  There was an increase in Parkinson’s Disease after that epidemic.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as aspirin reduce inflammation. That is why the Cardiologists suggest taking them — to reduce the inflammation in the heart.

What was exciting about Dr. Mark’s presentation at the Parkinson’s Support Group meeting tonight was that certain umbilical cord cells (UCMS) found in Wharton’s Jelly can produce a form of stem cells having properties that hinder inflammation, interfering in the cycle that produces the death of the Neurons that supply the brain with dopamine.  In addition, there is a bonus that results in the rescue of the neurons that are dying.  If that is not enough, there is evidence that those particular stem cells can be transplanted without triggering rejection.

Please understand that what I have just written is what was heard by a retired pastor who has no formal medical training other than making thousands of hospital calls, listening to multiple doctors who deal with Mary Ann’s many medical problems, and going to many a Parkinson’s Symposium.  I could easily have completely misunderstood.  I will email my blog address to him and invite Dr. Weiss to comment and correct, although I am sure he has much better things to do.  All who read this post need to understand it is just my take on what I heard.

What I left wtih tonight was not so much an expectation that there will be anything that comes of this research that will change Mary Ann’s situation.  It was more an excitement that there are possibilities for slowing down the progression of the disease in those diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  Even hope that may not change our situation is hope.

Tonight I gained a level of understanding of this disease that I have never experienced before.  I credit the knowledge and communication skills of Dr. Mark.  I can’t speak for the rest of the group, but judging from the questions, it appeared that most of us gathered in that room now understand the disease process of Parkinson’s as well as some Neurologists.

Gathering with a room full of people who understand what it is like to live with Parkinson’s Disease is comforting.  We talk the same language.  We can talk about things that would either bore others or cause them to feel uncomfortable.  For some reason I feel empowered just by knowing more about the disease process.  It demystifies it.  Knowledge is power.  That Dr. Mark and others in the research community know as much as they do, increases the likelihood that a number of approaches to treating Parkinson’s will emerge in the years to come.

Tonight’s Speaker: Mark L Weiss, Ph.D. Professor of Neuroscience at Kansas State University; Associate Director of the Terry C. Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research; Founder of the Midwest Institute for Stem Cell Biology; Anatomy and Physiology, College of Veterinary Medicine.

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