My Father, My Brother, and Me

Producers' Forum

Video Stories - Watch short stories Dave Iverson and Michael Schwarz filmed over the past two years while making My Father, My Brother, and Me.

The Price of Science

By David Iverson on January 23, 2009 5:44 AM | Comments (3)

Today comes news that the FDA has approved the first human trial of human embryonic stem cells -- specifically to test the potential of the cells to treat spinal cord injuries. It's a major step forward in stem cell research, but I can't help also thinking about the dollars and cents implications of a study like this.

In his inaugural address, President Obama spoke of restoring science to "its rightful place," a call that I'm sure heartened researchers everywhere. But as we all know, our economy is currently facing enormous challenges, and the effects of the downturn have spread far beyond Wall Street -- University endowments that are key to funding scientific research are losing money, and some research projects -- including a Parkinson's project -- were even compromised by the Madoff affair. And ultimately, how much we spend on research will depend in part on other competing needs. So will returning science to "its rightful place" really mean an uptick in what we spend on research, or will other worthwhile efforts -- from education to defense -- trump what we spend on science? It's obviously too soon to know, but there's no question that in an era of competing financial demands, how we choose to spend research dollars will become even more crucial.

And that's why the role of the many Parkinson's foundations who support research is so crucial. The government-run NIH, the biggest funder of neurological disease research, can't do it all. As Dr. William Langston, the founder of the Parkinson's Institute, points out, "NIH isn't enough. You have to have money to chase new leads, to do things that NIH can't fund."  

So in an era of tight financing, which projects are most deserving of financial support? It's a tough question. On the one hand, we don't want to shortchange long-range projects whose payoff may not be imminent. On the other, those of us with a chronic condition want to see research aimed at what will benefit patients the soonest. In the end, restoring science to its "rightful place" is not just about deciding what that place is, but also how much it costs.

What research do you think deserves funding even in these strapped times? Who do you think should decide which projects get funded?

 

3 Comments

Judi Richardson said on January 26, 2009 9:27 AM:

My brother was diagnosed with Parkinson's in his 40's. My father had it too. My father is now deceased. My brother had DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) surgery about three years ago when the various medications he was taking were no longer effective. My personal observations regarding the difference in his symptoms from before his surgery and after are between day and night. I often forget he even has Parkinson's Disease now because the change has been so dramatic. I know he never forgets and he could tell his own story about any possible down side to the surgery.
Dolly Manning said on January 26, 2009 3:58 PM:

My husband has had Parkinson's for 30 years. He was diagnosed at the age of 38. Two and a half years ago he had deep brain stimulation surgery (DBS) when medications were no longer working. He only had the DBS on one side of his brain which did alleviate his Parkinson's symptoms, the physical symptoms, but left him with increased mental side effects. I would like to know if there is anyone else out there that could share their story with me if they had DBS surgery and suffered increased mental side effects from this surgery or was everything great and "perfect" after their DBS surgery? We do not regret having the surgery and after 2-1/2 years some things have improved mentally but it has been a long road to get to that point and things still are not what they used to be mentally for him. Dolly
nina compagnon said on January 28, 2009 1:59 PM:

dear david, i just heard about the frontline special and then saw your blog and am so excited to share with you some thoughts that i and a couple of my young onset pd friends have. i was diagnosed at 40 and have had this disease for 14 years. i functioned very well for many years; when i was "on" you'd never know i had an illness, and then i'd go off and it would be evident - the whole jekyl and hyde thing. now i am to the point of having both predictable and unpredictable off times where no amount of medication works and i just have to tolerate the rigidity and discomfort for up to 3 hours before dopamine works again. so why no one is looking at alternative treatments? it seems that all the research goes to finding new drugs that don't solve the problem. what about the concept that our bodies are capable of growing new neurons. i'm sure you are familiar with mucuna pruriens, which is the fava bean plant. if you take mucuna, it too has naturally occurring dopamine so works as a substitute for sinemet. there is a phd in england who has developed an organic, highly condensed vegetable paste that is made from peas, carrots, beans, and spinach. it works as a substitute for levodopa as it has naturally occurring levodopa in it. dr. grinstein believes we need to stop using the synthetic dopamine and get it from natural sources and encourage the body's natural tendency to grow new neurons and to move towards health. i have been taking his products for 2 years now and am actively involved in cutting back my medications in the hope that my body will move towards health. he is a strong believer in organic foods, pure water, sunshine and exercise. he believes you can get vitamine d from sunshine and that your skin cells produce dopamine that can then be used in the brain. it's really much more complex than that but i just wanted to give you a sense of the breadth of his knowledge and insight. i encourage you to check out dr grinstein's web sites. he heads an institute called nutritional medicine research. he studies food biochemistry and molecular biology. it would be phenominal if we could get his efforts funded. you can learn about him at www.br13.com. regards, nina

Leave a comment


posted january 29, 2009

my father, my brother, and me home page · watch online · dvd/transcript · credits · site map
FRONTLINE series home · privacy policy · journalistic guidelines

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation