“This trial is to restore the enzyme and allow them to be awakened, or ‘on,’ for a longer period of time.”
There are other gene therapies for Parkinson’s disease planned or in testing. A trial developed at the National Institutes of Health seeks to add a growth factor and regenerate cells. A European company, Oxford BioMedica, is trying to replace dopamine.
Altogether, as of this year, there were 48 clinical trials under way of gene or cell replacement in the brain and nervous system, according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, a trade group. The nervous system is the fourth most common target for this style of experimental treatment, after cancer, heart disease, and infections.
Voyager’s staff is enthusiastic about a study participant they call “patient number 6,” whom they’ve been tracking for several months—ever since he got the treatment. Before the gene therapy, he was on a high dose of L-Dopa but still spent six hours a day in an “off” state. Now he’s off only two hours a day and takes less of the drug.