Michael J. Fox is Always Looking Up

Michael J.Fox was on The Daily Show with John Stewart promoting his new book Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist. The book is a memoir of the last 10 years and his hard-won perspective of turning challenges into opportunities. Mr. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1991, although he did not disclose his illness until 1998, at which time he became a tireless advocate for the disease and for stem cell research, which he feels may hold the answer for a cure.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a brain disorder of the nerve cells (neurons) in the brain that control movement called the basal ganglia. One part of the basal ganglia, called the substantia nigra, produces a chemical called dopamine.  Dopamine is important because it allows for the smooth movement of muscles in the body.  For unknown reasons, in Parkinson’s Disease these brain cells are damaged and stop producing dopamine.  When the level of dopamine drops below a certain amount, noticeable symptoms of PD begin to occur. These symptoms include:

  • Tremor (shaking) of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • Slowness of movement
  • Rigidity (stiffness) of the arms, legs and trunk
  • Poor balance and coordination

Currently, there is no cure for PD. Treatment primarily consists of drugs that either replace or mimic dopamine, which can lessen symptoms. Surgery may be used as a last resort in a selective group of patients.

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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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