While there are many diseases out there that are new or are reemerging to reek havoc on human health, there are some that have been a part of the human experience since the beginning. Strangely enough, Parkinson’s disease is on the list that has been documented for thousands of years. While the disease was first officially described to Western audiences by its namesake James Parkinson in 1817, there is indications that it has been documented in Ancient China and India in 1000 B.C. However, the first to really study it at any depth was Jean Martin Charcot in the 1880’s and was the first to describe the spectrum of the disease, from tremors to the rigidness. Another great contribution that Charcot made to the study of the Parkinson’s was a way to differentiate it from other neurodegenerative diseases with similar symptoms.
William Gowers also made huge strides in the understanding of Parkinson’s, finding that the disease is more prevalent in men than it is in women. However, it wasn’t until the 1960’s when scientists were able to understand the underlying biological mechanisms that were causing Parkinson’s. It was previously known that Parkinson’s patients had low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. But why that was remained unknown until they found that dopaminergic neurons found in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra were dying. With this knowledge the drug Levodopa (L-DOPA) was created to treat Parkinson’s symptoms and has ever since been the ‘go to’ drug for Parkinson’s treatment. However, the search for a cure is still ongoing.