According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, nearly one million Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease.
Legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali is one of those million. Rasheda Ali, one of his daughters, spoke with Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor for FoxNews.com, about her father’s struggles and her work to find a cure through stem cells.
Muhammad Ali was diagnosed in 1984, but Rasheda said she noticed early signs of the disease in a tape of one of his last fights in 1981. She said the early years of his diagnosis were particularly trying for her and her family.
“It’s really nice that now we have so many resources and materials and information,” Rasheda said. “But back in the ‘80s, we had nothing. We were literally embarking on this tragedy, because we didn’t know what we were going into. It was hard for us.”
Because Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, Rasheda witnessed her dad slowly deteriorate over the years, all the while not really understanding what was happening to him. But after years of struggle, Rasheda said her father is currently doing great and is now focusing intently on his lifestyle.
“He takes care of himself, even now,” Rasheda said. “Physical therapy is very important for people who have neurocognitive disorders. He’s in the gym regularly.”
In an attempt to help find a cure for her father, Rasheda has collaborated with a biotech company called “BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics,” which has been experimenting with stem cell treatment on patients with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Through their efforts, many of these patients’ symptoms have greatly improved, and the degenerative properties of the disease have started to slow.
“If you can have these incredible results for what I think is the most severe…neurocognitive disease there is, what kind of promise will they do down the pipeline for other neurocognitive diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s?” Rasheda said.
After seeing the amazing results this company has achieved, Rasheda is convinced that stem cells hold the key to treating these diseases in the future.