Back to the Future star Michael J Fox and his search for a futuristic cure for Parkinson’s
Star of the Back to the Future franchise Michael J Fox is a multi-award winning actor who has been dominating the screen since the age of 19. He has written 2 best selling memoirs and is the founder of the Michael J Fox Foundation, an organisation which aims to raise money to carry out research into finding more effective treatments and even a cure for Parkinson’s Disease.
Parkinson’s is a disease that affects approximately 145,000 people in the UK. It is a progressive neurological condition that develops when the cells in the brain stop working properly and are lost over time. The brain cells affected are those that produce the chemical dopamine. Symptoms start to appear when the brain can no longer produce enough dopamine to control movement properly. For most it develops later in life, though for 1 in 10 sufferers the symptoms can manifest earlier.
Fox noticed his first tremor at the height of his career when filming Doc Hollywood in 1990. It started in his pinkie finger, which he noticed wouldn’t stop twitching. It would be a year however until he was diagnosed. At 29 he knew almost nothing about the disease. It is characterised primarily by slurred speech, muscle stiffness, and twitches and tremors, though as with any illness the symptoms vary from person to person. Upon diagnosis he was told by his doctor that he would only have 10 years left to work. He has proven them very much wrong however, and has continued to appear on TV and in films, win awards and start his own company.
Fox started the Michael J Fox foundation in 2000. It is a foundation that is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease through funding research for the developments of more effective treatments. They want to move away from the current ‘one size fits all’ treatments used for the disease and become truly patient orientated, working to fund research that will develop treatments for all variations and symptoms of the disease. As of the end of 2017 the foundation had raised $750 million from private donations. Fox states that he feels lucky, as he has been in the position where he is actually able to do something about it. Recently the foundation has partnered with Verity Life Sciences to use their data collecting smart watches, enabling them to monitor patient’s tremors 24/7 to see how they change over time and in different situations, such as when stressed or tired.
Fox has always said he doesn’t believe in measuring how long things will last, as it is pointless to torture yourself by constantly asking how much longer you’ll be able to do something. Instead he chooses to simply live his life, stating that “It is just another thing that you face and you carry on.”