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U of L researcher leads national study of rare movement disorder

Dr. Irene Litvan is with a patient suffering from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy—or PSP.

Dr. Irene Litvan

"This disease is neurodegenerative. That means cells in the brain die and we do not know why. We are going to try to get at the possible causes."

Litvan says PSP appears to be linked to the gradual deterioration of a few tiny but important cells in the brain stem. One of these areas is also affected in Parkinson's Disease. But Litvan says the similarities of the afflictions end there. Parkinson's Disease takes several years before many of the problems begin. Symptoms in PSP progress quickly.

Litvan continues

"In PSP, the first problem is patients begin to fall, they become slow in getting up, not one side or the other. Within two to three years they have problems looking up and down, pretty early on they have trouble with speech and swallowing."

Litvan's team is recruiting patients and they will begin looking at possible genetic and environmental factors as causes. The project is funded with a three-point-four million dollar grant from the national institutes of health.

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