World Parkinson's Day

James Parkinson, the English doctor who identified the condition is his 1817 paper, "An Essay on the Shaking Palsy," was born on April 11th, 1755. His birthday has been chosen to mark World Parkinson's Day, when efforts are made to publicize the disease, and to raise support for research into its treatment and eventual cure. A red tulip symbolizes the awareness and the efforts

Parkinson's is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. Its early symptoms include shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking. It leads to dementia in its advanced stages. The disease involves the death of cells in the substantia nigra part of the brain, with an insufficiency of dopamine.

It affects about 145,000 in the UK (1 in 350 adults), and 6.2m worldwide, with 117,400 deaths globally. While there is no cure yet, it can be treated with levodopa (L-dopa) in its early stages. Research is investigating gene therapy, possible vaccines to prime the immune system against it, and cell-based therapies using stem cells.

Celebrity sufferers include the actor, Michael J Fox, and have included Muhammad Ali, the boxer, and Jeremy Thorpe, the politician. They have helped to publicize the condition and the work being done on it. It will undoubtedly be cured some day, given the effort and resources going into it. Humanity's ancient enemy, smallpox, was killed. Polio is on the point of extinction, and we have the means to conquer tuberculosis. Malaria, too, will be wiped out.

All of these successes and impending successes illustrate the dictum that if humanity wants something badly enough and are prepared to commit the resources to it, they will get it. This is not blind optimism, but simply reality. It is what happens. Whether it is to put men on the moon or to eradicate smallpox, it is that combination of determination plus resources that achieves the result. It will be true of Parkinson's and other forms of dementia, and of other diseases that blight and stunt human lives.

The doomsayers who trade on predicting bleak and destructive futures for humankind, and who sell millions of books to an avid public, miss out on the determination, resourcefulness and creativity that humans bring to bear on their problems. We solve our problems, and Parkinson's is one of them.