Sheila Roy says she can finally enjoy life at her countryside home in Cambridge. She's lived with Parkinson's disease for 17 years, but a team of Oxford scientists developed a treatment that changed her life.
"I can see a glimmer of the person I used to be now, which is really exciting!" Roy said.
She is one of only 15 people in the world to take part in a gene therapy experiment.
Scientists create and inject a virus into the brain. The shot jump starts the production of dopamine; the chemical patients need to fight Parkinson's. Without dopamine, Parkinson's sufferers often shake and can't control their movements.
"In principle, it should give patients a better quality of life through their day because of less ups and downs during the day," said Dr. Philip Buttery of the Cambridge Center for Brain Repair.
Researchers spent years in the lab testing the treatment on animals, injecting medicine into their brains. Once they had success, scientists began trying the treatment on a small number of people. Doctors say more studies involving hundreds of patients will be needed to prove the treatment is safe and works long term.
"If you can treat the symptoms and control in some way the deterioration in what you can do, it has to be better for you. And it is," Roy said.
Roy knows it's not a cure, but says she feels 10 years younger.
Other gene therapy experiments are underway here in the U.S. But the British experiment is the first that generates dopamine in a patient's brain.
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