New Parkinson’s Disease research program at MUSC


The Medical University of South Carolina will receive $150,000 in this year’s state budget to create a Parkinson’s Disease registry.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A new law has been enacted in South Carolina that will help fund research on Parkinson’s Disease in the state. 

The law is intended to improve resources for South Carolinians living with Parkinson’s Disease, like Army veteran Jay Phillips. 

Phillips fought in the Vietnam War and told New19 that he was exposed to the dangerous chemical Agent Orange. 

“So, it’s likely that there’s a connection between the pesticide Agent Orange and the Parkinson’s,” Phillips said.

He was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s 12 years ago and calls himself fortunate for only having physical symptoms like tremors and orthostasis, so far. 

“It’s not uncommon after even five years or less to have mild cognitive impairment. Some people have hallucinations, delusions, there could be all sorts of mental aspects to the disease people don’t recognize,” Phillips said.

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million Americans live with the disease. The new South Carolina law aims to help Phillips and other South Carolinians that have it.

Phillips’ doctor Vanessa Hinson told News19 that, “right now, we only have a few centers here and there, but we need to reach out to folks living anywhere in South Carolina and give them what they need.”

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Hinson, who is part of MUSC’s Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, said the new state law will help them better reach patients. 

She explained that the law allows them to establish a registry for researchers to collect data on South Carolina patients with Parkinson’s, so they can better understand what may be causing it and whom it’s affecting.

“We can then analyze how many people live with Parkinson’s across the state, what resources are needed, and where they are needed to help these patients best,” Hinson said.

Phillips told News19 that what helps him best right now is his wife, support groups, and exercise. 

“It’s a matter of, you know, taking the pills and doing the exercises, and just keep on keepin’ on,” Phillips said.

Starting in 2022, the state will fund MUSC with $150,000 to boost its research on Parkinson’s Disease. Hinson said their next step is to form an advisory board of people living with Parkinson’s, their family members, researchers, and clinicians to help develop the registry. 

The Columbia Parkinson’s Support Group has a list of support groups per county that includes meeting places, times, and contact information. To access the list, click here.

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