MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — The WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute is currently exploring a new treatment option for Parkinson’s Disease. The institute is the first site in the country to initiate a gene therapy trial to help with the treatment of the disease.

“Now is the first time that we can see if gene therapy can have a substantive benefit and potential for people with Parkinson’s Disease,” Ali Rezai, M.D., executive chair of the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute said. “It’s exciting to be able to initiate this study here in West Virginia and provide West Virginians and others the opportunity to participate.”

The goal of the trial is to aid those who are dealing with Parkinson’s symptoms and Parkinson’s medication side effects. Rezai mentioned that gene therapy has been used to change the landscape of many other conditions across the world.

“(We have) a new opportunity with gene therapy, where WVU is the first site in the country to initiate this innovation of gene therapy,” Rezai said.

Rezai told 12 News that the approach includes implementing genes to areas of the brain that are dysfunctional due to Parkinson’s Disease. According to Rezai, implementation takes place where ordinary Parkinson’s Disease symptoms like shaking or stiffness are apparent.

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While people are usually medicated in some way to help treat Parkinson’s, Rezai says medications won’t always provide long-term relief

“People with the disease over time become less responsive to medications, or their medications have side effects,” Rezai said. “Parkinson’s alters your day-to-day functions and makes you disabled over time.”

While several medications have been used as a treatment in the past, brain implants or brain pacemakers have been commonly used over the past 20 years to help with tremors, stiffness and shaking caused by Parkinson’s Disease.

“Now there’s this new phase trial with gene therapy where you don’t need the implant in your body long-term, and you just place the gene in the part of the brain that is dysfunctional with Parkinson’s, and over time that part of the brain changes to become more functional,” Rezai said. “It’s not only showing clinical benefit but there is a metabolic or biological change that’s being seen as well.”

The trial has already had one participant that is suffering from the disease. The group is now looking to recruit additional participants, who will be reviewed to see if they are eligible for the study.

While WVU was the first site for the study, Rezai told 12 News that more clinical trials will be conducted across the country in the future.