Noted Israeli Scientists Attends Parkinson's Conference in Louisville

When Dr. Irene Litvan, Director of the Movement Disorder Program at the University convened the First International Brainstorming Conference on Parkinson's Disease in Louisville on June 17-18, her reputation as a scientist and researcher drew experts from around the world to the conclave.

Among those who attended was Dr. Eldad Melamed, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology at Rabin Medical Center at the Sackler Medical School at Tel Aviv University. He also is chair of the Parkinson's Disease Research project there funded by Norma and Alan Aufzine.

Dr. Melamed's program is a large one. He said, "We have [inpatient] beds and outpatient clinics, all kind of auxiliary services for patients and a very, very active basic science lab."

Research within the Neurology Department encompasses many areas including stroke, migraine, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and many others. Dr. Melamed's main interest is in Parkinson's disease, other movement disorders and neural degeneration in general.

"We are trying to answer many questions related to Parkinson's disease," he explained, with the ultimate goal of developing effective treatments. Among the things Dr. Melamed is studying are what makes nerve cells die and what are the mechanisms of the disease.

He and his colleagues are trying "to develop therapeutic means to stop the degeneration with the hope that, by doing so, we will be able to stop the disease or at least slow it down."

He explained Parkinson's disease occurs when nerve cells that produce dopamine die. Dopamine is a chemical transmitter the brain uses to control and modulate voluntary movement.

"When the cells that produce dopamine die," he continued, "there is a reduction of the level of this compound in the brain. Patients become slow and stiff. They tremble; they lose postural stability; and they fall a lot."

Dr. Melamed said that there has been significant progress in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, but much more needs to be done. Current treatment calls for medications that help control the symptoms of the disease, "but most of the medications do not work smoothly and efficiently," he said. They also lose their effectiveness after a time; and many patients develop severe side effects.

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