A nanobody that may halt Parkinson’s progression. AI, breathing patterns, and diagnoses. The first-ever legislation devoted exclusively to ending Parkinson’s. Levodopa in dietary supplements. Participant praise for Pedaling For Parkinson’s™. Jeremy Paxman on living well with Parkinson’s. Here’s what’s new in the world of Parkinson’s this month.
- Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, published a study in Nature Communications that investigated the ability of nanobodies to bind to and break down clumps of alpha-synuclein in the brain. Through tests in live brain cells and tissue of mice, the team discovered that one candidate in particular, PFFNB2, stayed stable and strongly bound to alpha-synuclein aggregates, effectively breaking them down. By penetrating brain cells and preventing misshapen alpha-synuclein proteins from spreading, the nanobody may have the potential to spur new and powerful Parkinson’s treatments.
- A team of researchers at MIT has developed an artificial intelligence model that can detect Parkinson’s by assessing a person’s nocturnal breathing patterns. The model, a neural network, is also able to determine the severity of a person’s Parkinson’s and track its progression over time.
- In a brief communication in the Journal of Movement Disorders, researchers at Chungnam National University College of Medicine in Korea explain how conducing more extensive biopsies and taking larger tissue samples from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract could help clinicians better identify alpha-synuclein clumping in the GI tract. This, in turn, could help them diagnosis Parkinson’s through biopsy procedures.
- A bipartisan bill called the National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act (H.R. 8585) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) in early August. It has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and calls for the secretary of Health and Human Services to lead the National Parkinson’s Project, aimed at preventing and curing Parkinson’s.
- Findings from a study published in Movement Disorders suggest that Parkinson’s can alter glycosphingolipid levels in the blood and that some of these alterations are linked to motor and cognitive impairments.
- Research published in Science Translational Medicine shows how microglia (the brain’s immune cells) moderate the risk of Parkinson’s associated with the LRRK2 gene (a gene closely linked with familial Parkinson’s).
- Data from a study involving 200 people with Parkinson’s found that women with Parkinson’s experience more and worse pain in numerous subtypes than men living with Parkinson’s. The study was published in the Journal of Integrative Neuroscience.
- Published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, a study by researchers at Nanjing Medical University in China showed an association between enhanced ultrasound signals (known as hyperechogenicity) in the brain’s substantia nigra and increased motor impairment and gait disturbances in Chinese people with Parkinson’s. The findings suggest that hyperechogenicity may be useful a biomarker to reflect the severity of a person’s Parkinson’s.
- A small study by researchers in Japan showed that older age at diagnosis and low levels of physical activity were significantly linked with faster motor decline in people with Parkinson’s. The research was published in Internal Medicine.
- Another study, published in Nature Portfolio Journal – Parkinson’s Disease, found an association between faster motor decline and weight loss in people with Parkinson’s. Over a five-year period, people with Parkinson’s who had unintended weight loss experienced faster motor and cognitive declines than people with Parkinson’s who did not lose weight; weight gain over the five-year period was associated with a slower progression of motor symptoms.
- In the journal npj Parkinson’s Disease, researchers in Luxembourg explain the association between older age at the onset of idiopathic Parkinson’s and more severe motor and non-motor symptoms. Their findings suggest that many non-motor symptoms may be caused less by Parkinson’s and more by the natural aging process.
- Findings based on data from Maccabi Health Care Services (the second largest health plan in Israel) showed an association between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Parkinson’s in older men, even after making adjustments for depression and traumatic lifetime events. The risk of developing Parkinson’s is highest in men diagnosed with PTSD at age 72 or older, which suggests that PTSD in older men may be a Parkinson’s prodromal symptom. The findings are similar to results of a recent study among male US veterans, which showed a 2.7-fold excess risk for Parkinson’s in association with PTSD.
- Thanks to a $9 million grant from the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s initiative, researchers at Yale School of Medicine will continue to research the connections between the gut and Parkinson’s, this time using novel technologies to study the role of the gut-brain axis during homeostasis, a process in which the body regulates its internal environment.
- In Scientific Reports, researchers explain how using information gathered from machine learning can help Parkinson’s experts reevaluate and update standardized Parkinson’s treatments, as well as helping to improve the monitoring of symptoms and progression.
- By performing single-cell RNA sequencing on lab-grown human stem cells, researchers in China were able to characterize the cells formed during dopaminergic neuron maturation and to create a “transcriptional landscape” of in vitro dopaminergic differentiation. They believe the findings, published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy, may improve quality control for Parkinson’s cell therapy.
- A longitudinal study that analyzed data from 9,796 participants suggests an association between “low religiosity” in adulthood and an increased risk for developing Parkinson’s. The lead author notes that “the findings…might not be generalizable to predominantly non-Christian populations.” The study was published in the Journal of Religion and Health.
- Data from a recent retrospective study that included information on 558,371 people who had undergone total knee arthroplasty (TKA) can help people with Parkinson’s who may have the procedure predict possible complications and choose the best setting for the procedure. The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Global Research & Reviews.
- Another study exploring orthopedics and Parkinson’s, published in Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation, found that people with Parkinson’s often need higher-level care after experiencing a hip fracture than people who are not living with Parkinson’s. Data also showed that even though Parkinson’s is a risk factor for hip fracture, many people with Parkinson’s do not undergo screenings or preventive therapies for osteoporosis.
- In the Journal of Biomedical Science, researchers explain how a new Parkinson’s mouse model may help scientists better understand the underlying mechanisms of Parkinson’s, including those related to mitochondrial abnormalities.
- In the journal Science, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania share findings that suggest that increased concentrations of the transmembrane protein Glycoprotein Nonmetastatic Melanoma Protein B (GPNMB) in blood samples could be an early biomarker for Parkinson’s.
- A study published in the Journal of Human Genetics found that PPARGC1A rare variants may contribute to the risk of young onset and familial Parkinson’s.
- Following the recent publication of their Global Burden of Disease study, the World Health Organization (WHO) has created a six-step action plan to address global disparities in care for people with Parkinson’s.
- With a second research grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), Koneksa will evaluate Parkinson’s progression using digital measures such as activity, gait, and sleep; unique algorithms; and specialized machine learning techniques.
- The Parkinson’s Foundation has announced $1.1 million in funding for the Institutional Movement Disorder Fellowship Program and the Nurse Practitioner Fellowship in Movement Disorders. The 2022 recipients will receive unique Parkinson’s expert training, first-hand experience, and funding to launch individual research projects.
PARKINSON’S treatments and THERAPIES
- A research letter published in JAMA Neurology states that some dietary supplements contain incredibly high levels of levodopa, the gold-standard Parkinson’s medication. The researchers analyzed 16 Mucuna pruriens (a bean with high amounts of naturally-occurring levodopa) dietary supplements; one product contained no detectable amount of levodopa, while the others ranged from 2 mg per dose to 241 mg per dose. The findings are important for the Parkinson’s community, as a recent study showed that nearly one in 10 people with Parkinson’s take Mucuna pruriens dietary supplements, and because of the widely varying amounts of levodopa in these supplements (and because the supplements may be inaccurately labeled), people with Parkinson’s may not know how much levodopa they are actually taking.
- In the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, findings from an analysis of published studies showed that while there was not a difference in motor symptom change after deep brain stimulation (DBS) regardless of whether microelectrode recording was used during the surgery (to guide electrode placement), people with Parkinson’s who had DBS with microelectrode recording reported a greater reduction in the use of Parkinson’s medications.
- A team of neurophysicists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have found evidence disproving the idea that a “swallow tail sign” on MRI images corresponds to a dopaminergic brain region impacted by Parkinson’s. The findings may lead to the development of new MRI markers that can diagnosis Parkinson’s in earlier stages.
- A study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine highlights the positive impacts of group cycling on the physical and emotional health of participants who are living with Parkinson’s. Participants from five different Pedaling For Parkinson’s classes reported that they both enjoyed and and benefited from (both physically and emotionally) the program, regardless of their age and symptoms. Pedaling For Parkinson’s is a community cycling program held at more than 150 centers around the US (and is one that is very popular with the Davis Phinney Foundation community!).
- Another study about the benefits of exercise on Parkinson’s symptoms, published in Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine, found that ongoing physical therapy (including exercises that focus on muscle strength, aerobic exercise, balance, posture and gait, and flexibility) helps manage motor symptoms and may allow for lower doses of medication among people with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s.
- And another study on the power of exercise for Parkinson’s showed that regular treadmill exercise significantly reduced the buildup and spread of alpha-synuclein in the brain, prevented neurodegeneration, and decreased motor impairments in a mouse model of Parkinson’s. Published in Cell Reports, the study also found that fenofibrate, a medication typically prescribed to lower cholesterol, produced similar benefits.
- Findings from a small study published in BMJ Neurology Open suggest that one-hour group singing sessions can help minimize Parkinson’s-related bradykinesia and tremor.
- Research published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience suggests that citric acid-sourced carbon quantum dots (Cit-CQDs) may be a potentially viable, green chemistry-synthesized, biobased nanomaterial for the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s.
- Data from a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial investigating ANAVEX2-73 (a drug candidate aimed to treat Parkinson’s disease dementia) identified a gene network that is differentially expressed in people with PDD who received ANAVEX2-73 for 14 weeks compared to those who received a placebo. Findings showed that mRNA expression significantly increased in trial participants treated with ANAVEX2-73 compared to placebo and that the drug was significantly associated with improvements in movement and cognition.
- Results from a year-long trial showed that cinpanemab, a human-derived monoclonal antibody that binds to αlpha-synuclein, did not lead to different clinical measures of Parkinson’s progression compared to placebo.
- Another monoclonal antibody designed to target alpha-synuclein clumps, prasinezumab, also failed to slow the progression of Parkinson’s in a Phase 2 clinical trial. The full results from the study were recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
- A study published in The American Journal of Medicine found that angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) treatment was associated with a statistically important reduction of Parkinson’s risk in people newly diagnosed with hypertension.
- An international research team led by scientists at Griffith University’s Queensland Micro and Nanotechnology Center has developed a thin, implantable, silicon carbide flexible electronic system that, through nerve stimulation, may have the ability to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s. The research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- NICE, the watchdog of the National Health Service, will soon review five wearable gadgets that have the potential, according to Ray Chaudhuri, head of Parkinson’s research at King’s College Hospital in London, to mark a ‘paradigm shift’ in the way Parkinson’s is treated.
PARKINSON’S LIVING WELL STORIES
- Now available for free download, “The PD Movers, We Keep Moving: Living and Thriving with Parkinson’s Disease in our Black and African American Communities” is a compilation of narratives that sheds light on the challenges and opportunities people from the Black and African American community often face when diagnosed with Parkinson’s. “Our goal is to inspire and connect individuals in the community by sharing the uplifting stories of these remarkable individuals,” says Denise Coley, a member of the PD Movers group. “We hope the stories will educate others by removing the mysteries and misconceptions surrounding Parkinson’s.”
- Joni Pursell recently took an 8,000-mile trip, from her home state of Idaho to Maine, to raise awareness about Parkinson’s. “It was really exciting to be a part of something bigger than me,” she said.
- UK broadcaster and BAFTA winner Jeremy Paxman will star in a documentary about his experiences living with Parkinson’s, digging into some of the myths about the condition and how he takes action to live well every day.
- A new pickleball club for people with Parkinson’s in Parksville, British Columbia, benefits members not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. “They talk about the various symptoms they’re experiencing every day. They watch each other, care for one another, and encourage each other,” a member’s wife said.
- Leona Braund, who chose table tennis over pickleball as her sport of choice, says the sport helps her manage symptoms, stay motivated, and connect with others.
PARKINSON’S SURVEYS, CLINICAL TRIALS, and volunteer opportunities
- Do you have early-stage Parkinson’s? The Orchestra Study is a clinical research study to evaluate the use of an investigational medication called UCB0599 in men and women with early-stage Parkinson’s. You can learn more and see if you qualify here.
- PD GENEration – The Parkinson’s Foundation has announced a major expansion of its national study to make genetic testing and counseling more available for people with Parkinson’s. The study (NCT04057794) hopes to enroll 15,000 people in all 50 US states, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Details are available here. For questions about enrollment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative – In an expanded study, the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) is currently working to enroll up to 100,000 people with and without Parkinson’s. The study team is especially seeking to enroll people diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the past two years and who are not yet on treatment, as well as people 60 and older who aren’t living with Parkinson’s but have a risk factor for it (such as a close relative with Parkinson’s, a known Parkinson’s-associated mutation, and/or REM sleep behavior disorder). The observational study is also enrolling people with no known connection to Parkinson’s to serve as a control group. Learn more here.
- TOPAZ (Trial of Parkinson’s and Zoledronic Acid) – Caroline Tanner, MD, PhD, is recruiting participants for a new remote clinical trial led by a team of Parkinson’s experts at UCSF in partnership with researchers from across the country. The goal of the study is to help people with Parkinson’s or parkinsonism maintain their independence by reducing the risk of hip fractures. The study will test if zoledronate, an FDA-approved medication for osteoporosis, can prevent fractures in people with Parkinson’s, whether or not they have osteoporosis. To learn more, visit the study website at TOPAZstudy.org, email TOPAZ@ucsf.edu, or call (415) 317-5748.
- Join Google and LSVT in Project Euphonia – LSVT Global has partnered with Google on an exciting research project called Project Euphonia to help improve automatic speech recognition software for people with speech disorders. These disorders may make using devices like Google Home, The Nest, and other Smart devices, Siri, Alexa, or speech-to-text frustrating. To do this, LSVT Global needs samples of disordered speech to train the system. If you’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, PSP, MSA, or CBD with mild, moderate, or severe speech disorders, you are encouraged to enroll. Participation is easy, can be done from your own home, and can earn you a $60 gift card! Learn more here.
- G2019S LRRK2 Parkinson’s: Increasing Awareness and Genetic Testing Program – This program aims to support the development of precision medicine intended to treat people with genetic forms of Parkinson’s. Up to 15% of cases of Parkinson’s disease have an underlying genetic cause, yet many people have never had genetic testing. This research program will be very important in supporting the future development of a new oral precision medicine treatment for one of the most common genetic forms of Parkinson’s, aimed at slowing its progression. To learn more, visit geneticpd.com.
- A PD Avengers research group is undertaking a new project called Sparks of Experience, designed to be more systematic about collecting and considering the experiences and ideas that come from the curious minds of people living with Parkinson’s. “In the past, these sometimes quirky ideas inspired by lived experience have turned into significant new directions for research. It could be said we are trying to capture serendipity,” the team says. To learn more and get involved, see the flyer here.
- Game-based Exercise Project – Researchers at the University of Auckland are investigating how games can be used as potential systems of rehabilitation. This project aims to develop suitable game-based exercise experiences to help people living with Parkinson’s. If you are 45 or older, and living with a chronic condition such as Parkinson’s, and/or are experiencing age-related health conditions, you are invited to participate in a survey that will help the researchers to understand the community’s interests in games and gameplay in the context of exercise and rehabilitation. To learn more and take the 15-minute survey, see the flyer here.
- SPARX3 – A Phase 3 Clinical Trial about Exercise and Parkinson’s – This research team is currently seeking volunteers to participate in a clinical trial about the effects of aerobic exercise on people with Parkinson’s. Learn more and see if you qualify here. For more details, contact Katherine Balfany at SPARX3@ucdenver.edu.
- PAIRing Up – If you are a person with Parkinson’s or a care partner to someone with Parkinson’s, you are invited to participate in an online survey to address neuropsychiatric (cognition, depression, anxiety) concerns in Parkinson’s. The survey aims to learn about the needs and priorities for clinical care, education, support, and research related to neuropsychiatric symptoms. To learn more and participate, click here to download the flyer.
- A multidisciplinary research team in the UK is investigating how to best use music to help people with Parkinson’s manage symptoms related to movement and mood. This includes research about music for dancing and is the first study to incorporate the new Dance Sophistication Index for people with Parkinson’s. To learn more and take a 30-minute survey, click here.
- The University of Oulu and collaborators from Aalborg University, Fraunhofer University, the University of Manchester, the University of Glasgow, the University of Lisbon, and the University of Melbourne, are conducting a survey for people with Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s care partners about self-care. Complete the survey here to share your self-care strategies and techniques. You can also review ideas submitted by others and add them to your own self-care toolbox.
- Home-based Exercise and Cognitive Behavior Therapy – University of Alabama in Huntsville
- Speech and Telemedicine Study – The Purdue Motor Speech Lab
- Parkinson’s and Service Dogs – University of Groningen, Netherlands
- Neurology Study Interest Registry – University of Rochester
- Park Test – University of Rochester
For more of what’s new in Parkinson’s news, check out our full series here.
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