Parkinson’s sufferer boosted by gene therapy

A British woman stricken with Parkinson’s disease can write for the first time in 15 years after receiving gene therapy as part of an international trial.

Sheila Roy is one of only 15 people worldwide to undergo the radical treatment, which involves inserting corrective genes into the brain.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s in her 40s, she has struggled with the disease for 17 years.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Doctors at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge injected a modified virus carrying the genes directly into the motor centre of her brain. The genes provide the coded instructions for proteins needed to make dopamine, a brain chemical essential for proper control of movement.

Lack of dopamine leads to the symptoms of tremor, stiffness and poor balance associated with Parkinson’s.

Mrs Roy is taking part in an early-stage study of the ProSavin therapy developed by Oxford BioMedica focusing mainly on dosing and safety on patients with mid-stage Parkinson’s who are no longer responding so well to conventional treatments.

Mrs Roy, from Bedfordshire, said: “Early in 2011 I was rapidly deteriorating. My medication was being less effective, there was increased involuntary movement, where I frequently hit myself but also other people, and had a four second switch from extreme movement to being ‘off’ and very still. This lasted for some time, up to two hours and more and I could do nothing.

“These unpredictable shifts were like a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ transition, and outside of my control.

“Parkinson’s disease changes the ability and capability of the individual affected. You lose confidence, dignity and hope.

“The ProSavin experience has restored my confidence, enabled better motor function and has given me hope. I can function more normally and, for the first time in 15 years, I can write.”

The trial is being conducted internationally in two centres – Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Henri Mondor Hospital in Paris.