The cure for devastating diseases such as Parkinson’s may reside in waste material. To be precise, the human umbilical cord, which is often discarded after birth. The stem cells which are found in the umbilical cord blood may play a pivotal role in curing Parkinson’s.
With the hopes of finding a cure, Craig Cady, who is a biology professor at Bradley University, researches stem cells found in bone marrow and umbilical cords.
On Sunday, the riverfront played host to the Shake, Rattle & Roll for Parkinson’s fundraiser. Cady attended the event.
“What we’re trying to do is influence stem cells to change and function like neurons,” he said. “The concept is to replace damaged neurons that were destroyed by Parkinson’s.”
With no specific function, stem cells are unspecialized cells that hold enormous potential. With the ability to develop onto different cells and tissues, such as neurons in the brain, stem cells can be manipulated to provide therapeutic benefit to patients.
“We are getting very close to clinical trials,” he said. “We’re within five years of reasonable clinical trials where we actually try it on patients.”
The group Calipso Connection sponsored the annual event which drew a crowd of several hundred people. Calipso stands for Central Illinois Advocates for Lives Interrupted by Parkinson’s Support Organization.
After struggling with the disease herself, President Joan Snyder started the fundraiser six years ago.
“I thought this was a piece of cake disease,’ she said. ‘Then suddenly the full force of the disease hit me and I had brain surgery.”
During her second brain surgery, a blood vessel was touched and she had stroke on the operating table.
“After the stroke it took me seven months to recover,” she said. “During that time I decided if anyone does anything about this … disease, it would have to be me.”
An estimated $20,000 is expected to be raised by the event.
Cady’s research, and the Peoria Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation are two central Illinois institutions which will benefit from the funds.
“The more funds and support we have, the faster we can do the research,” Cady said. “It takes time and it takes money, unfortunately.”
Now Calipso treasurer, the 42-year-old Troy Webb was diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years ago.
“I decided I wanted to get involved to help find a cure,” he said. “It started slowing my fine motor skills on the right side of the body.”
Doing work that involves a lot of computer use and typing, Webb is a purchasing agent for a chemical company.
“It’s getting harder to type and use a mouse,” he said. “I’m in the process of purchasing voice-activated software so I don’t have to type as much.”
He hopes volunteering with groups like Calipso will help find new treatments and possibly cures for Parkinson’s patients in the future.