Racing industry helps out with Parkinson’s research

From left, Ann Hanley's husband David; Dr. Craig van Horne; Ann Hanley; and Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason; and UK Healthcare’s Dr. Greg Gerhardt.
From left, Ann Hanley’s husband David; Dr. Craig van Horne; Ann Hanley; and Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason; and UK Healthcare’s Dr. Greg Gerhardt.

A Kentucky thoroughbred racing organisation has donated $25,000 to help fund research into an experimental treatment system for Parkinson’s Disease.

The Keeneland Association made the donation in honor of Ann Hanley, wife of WinStar Farm General Manager David Hanley.

Hanley, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 49, founded the Ann Hanley Parkinson’s Research Fund in 2016 to underwrite research into an experimental treatment available only at the University of Kentucky.

Nearly one million people in the US are living with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative illness that damages and eventually destroys neurons in the brain, causing muscle rigidity and tremors, difficulty moving, unstable posture and ultimately death. There is no known cause and no cure.

UK HealthCare’s Dr Craig van Horne is testing a treatment designed to improve symptoms of the disease, such as tremors and stiffness. Called DBSplus, the treatment — in its early stages of testing — transplants a small piece of a patient’s own nerve tissue into the brain. The grafted nerve tissue is being tested for its ability to repair cells in the brain and improve motor function.

“While this is not a cure, it gives patients more time to enjoy their lives with more normalcy,” van Horne said. “It’s our hope, though, that as we further refine the procedure we might find a gateway to a cure, though that is a long-term goal.”

Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s Disease. © staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. [CC BY 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Because the treatment doesn’t involve a drug or a medical device, there is no industry funding for the s research. Hanley, both a patient of van Horne’s and a liaison to other Parkinson’s patients at UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Neuroscience Institute, was determined to find the money to help van Horne continue his studies.

“Ann is a special lady with notable talents,” van Horne said. “We are so grateful for her relentless support of our research, and thrilled that Keeneland and many others in the Thoroughbred industry have given so generously to the Ann Hanley Fund so that we may further the cause.”

Bill Thomason, President and CEO of the Keeneland Association said the organisation had devoted itself to serving the horse industry and the community for 80 years.

“In her fight against Parkinson’s, Ann has shown that she shares these same values. We admire her tenacity and devotion and are honored to support her efforts to find a cure.”

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