Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Michael J. Fox.

Michael J. Fox’s ad in support of stem cell research, for Missouri Democrat candidate Claire McCaskill‘s Senate campaign, has been viewed nearly 2 million times since it was uploaded to YouTube on 20th October:

In an appalling tirade, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who supports the Republican party, accused Fox of exaggerating his symptoms. Limbaugh infamously remarked that “he was either off his medication or he was acting” (and, apparently, mocked the actor by waving his arms and shaking in his chair):


Fox has early-onset Parkinson’s Disease (PD); he was diagnosed with the condition 15 years ago, when he was just 30 years old. PD is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which affects movement, and most commonly affects elderly people. The main symptoms of the disease are tremors, muscle rigidity and hypokinesia (less frequent voluntary movements); these are often accompanied by dementia. The symptoms are the result of the death of neurons in a part of the midbrain. Specifically, the cells that die are dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. Therefore, the first-line treatment for PD is Levodopa (L-Dopa), a dopamine receptor agonist. The effectiveness of L-Dopa declines as treatment progresses. Uwanted side effects include acute nausea and low blood pressure, which are experienced at the beginning of L-Dopa treatment but disappear after a few weeks. Involuntary choreiform (or dance-like) movements and ‘on-off’ hypokineasia and muscle rigidity normally develop within 2 years of beginning treatment.

In this interview with Katie Couric for CBS News, Fox says that he was actually over-medicated in the ad, so he may have been displaying the side effects of L-Dopa rather than the symptoms of the disease.



2 thoughts on “Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Michael J. Fox.

  1. I think it’s hilarious that just because a guy has an audience he automatically thinks he’s a neuroscientist. Of course, stem cells do have enormous potential.

    Take this study for example:
    Widner, H., Tetrud, J., et al. New England Journal of Medicine, 1992, 327, 1556-1563

    Fetal dopaminergic neurons were transplanted into the brain of a patient with Parkinson’s like symptoms (induced by an illicit drug and killed the same cells that are affected in parkinsons). 13 months later brainscans showed that the cells took and were once again producing L-DOPA (and therefore dopamine); the patients symptoms were relieved.

    … pretty good evidence of some mighty fine potential right there!

    Here’s some better citations if anybody would like to know:

    Ovid MEDLINE(R) Widner H. Tetrud J. Rehncrona S. Snow B. Brundin P. Gustavii B. Bjorklund A. Lindvall O. Langston JW. Bilateral fetal mesencephalic grafting in two patients with parkinsonism induced by 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)[see comment]. [Case Reports. Clinical Trial. Journal Article] New England Journal of Medicine. 327(22):1556-63, 1992 Nov 26.

    Ovid MEDLINE(R) Widner H. Tetrud J. Rehncrona S. Snow BJ. Brundin P. Bjorklund A. Lindvall O. Langston JW. Fifteen months’ follow-up on bilateral embryonic mesencephalic grafts in two cases of severe MPTP-induced parkinsonism. [Case Reports. Journal Article] Advances in Neurology. 60:729-33, 1993.

  2. One very recent study showed that, when co-cultured with glial cells, human ES cells differentiated into dopaminergic midbrain neurons and almost completely restored function when transplanted into rats with Parkinson’s-like symptoms. However, some of the transplanted cells remained undifferentiated and continued to divide; i.e. they were potentially cancerous.

    Another study, also very recent, has shown that MDMA (Ecstasy) promotes the survivial of fetal dopaminergic neurons. However, the link between MDMA and Parkinson’s is not new.

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