From tomatoes to live-streaming brain activity to genetic testing studies, news from the Parkinson’s field is as varied as it is encouraging this month. Here are some of the most important articles, podcasts, research, and living well stories happening as we wrap up 2020. Let us know if we missed anything important. Happy reading and happy new year!
PARKINSON’S ARTICLES AND PODCASTS
- A newly approved device gives doctors the ability to “live stream” brain activity of people who’ve had deep brain stimulation (DBS) around the clock. They can then control Parkinson’s symptoms in real time by tweaking the level of stimulation from the electrode. Doctors hope that, for the near future, this technology will help people with Parkinson’s keep a “digital diary” of their symptoms, which their doctor can review later to fine-tune their treatment. In the long term, researchers and doctors hope that the device could work like a thermostat, adjusting itself automatically to keep the person wearing it functioning optimally.
- How can equine-assisted therapy (EAT) help older adults with Parkinson’s live well? The Human Animal Bond Research has launched a study to find out. Researchers at the Texas Woman’s University School of Health Promotion and Kinesiology will compare bradykinesia severity and functional outcomes before and after eight weeks of EAT in adults with Parkinson’s to see how the therapy impacts symptoms.
- A team of researchers in the Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria University has received funding through the Clinical Research Award from the Parkinson’s Foundation to conduct a study on technology’s effect on Parkinson’s motor symptoms. Using state-of-the-art digital technology, the researchers can activate specific brain regions in study participants who are living with Parkinson’s, then analyze brain activity in response to different physiotherapy strategies. Understanding how specific physiotherapy strategies help minimize freezing of gait, slowness of movement, and reduced mobility can help physical therapists and other healthcare providers provide more effective, personalized treatment.
- Research published in Scientific Reports reports that visual hallucinations among people with Parkinson’s are associated with the thinning of the eye’s inner retina. The findings support other research showing that the pathology of Parkinson’s is primarily located in the ganglion cell layer-inner plexiform layer (GCL-IPL), which, when compared with other retinal layers, is most strongly associated with visual dysfunction.
- The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has acquired the biotechnology company Prevail Therapeutics, paving the way for their researchers to develop a new gene therapy program that they hope will target the genetic causes of neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s.
- A study in Taiwan that followed 35,891 people with Parkinson’s over an 11-year period found that suicide risk nearly doubled for people living with Parkinson’s. This supports a recent Danish study which found that the diagnosis of a neurologic disorder was associated with increased risk for suicide. The study’s authors stressed the importance of integrating mental health care into all areas of care for people living with Parkinson’s.
- The PMD Alliance has launched a free mobile app, PD&Me. Available on iOS and Android, the app lets you search for movement disorder specialists, Parkinson’s-specific support groups, and exercise classes near you. You can search by location, get Google Maps directions, and add meeting times and reminders directly to your calendar. Search for PD&Me in your smartphone’s App Store.
- At the Global Content Awards 2020, Parkinson’s Life Podcast was named “Best Global Audio Campaign of the Year.” Learn more and listen to past episodes here.
PARKINSON’S THERAPIES AND MEDICATIONS
- A tomato could be the future of Parkinson’s gold-standard medication, levodopa. Scientists at the John Innes Centre have produced a genetically modified (GM) tomato enriched with levodopa, which is produced from tyrosine, an amino acid found in many foods. The researchers believe the use of tomatoes as a natural source of levodopa would not only lead to a new and affordable form of the medicine but could also mitigate possible side effects such as nausea and behavioral complications.
- SpeechVive, a behind-the-ear wearable device that helps people with Parkinson’s speak more loudly and communicate more effectively, was featured at December’s Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association of American Universities’ third-annual University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed a clinical hold on the RESTORE-1 clinical trial of NBIb-1817 (VY-AADC),Voyager Therapeutics’ experimental gene therapy trial for people with Parkinson’s. In late December, Neurocrine Biosciences submitted an Investigational New Drug Safety Report, detailing their observation of MRI abnormalities in some of the study participants. Voyager stated that the clinical implications of the observation are currently unknown and are being evaluated.
- In what they call the largest study ever undertaken that assesses people with Parkinson’s’ use of cannabis, researchers affiliated with the University of Hamburg found that almost 10 percent of the more than 1300 people who responded report using cannabis products to alleviate Parkinson’s-related symptoms. The study, published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, said that respondents were more likely to report benefits from products containing THC than those consisting of CBD only.
PARKINSON’S LIVING WELL STORIES
- Diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s at age 32, Massud Chopan fought through depression by returning to the gym, where he exercises regularly to live his best life with Parkinson’s. “You get up there and do what you can to fight it. Keep training, keep your mind active. Keep focused.”
- In an interview with The Mirror this month, Comedian Billy Connolly, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013, discussed the many silver linings he has seen while living with Parkinson’s. “It’s taught me to ask for help. That used to bother me but you have to be brave enough to ask,” he said. “It enables you to see how nice people are. People are brilliant. It’s not because I’m famous. They’ve often never heard of me. People are basically very nice, given half a chance. It’s life-affirming. A lovely thing.”
- “Today’s research is tomorrow’s cure,” says Mel Mitchell, who recently participated in the PDGENEration initiative. Researchers leading the PDGENEration survey are currently testing participants for seven of the most common genes associated with Parkinson’s, with the hope that their findings will lead to improved, personalized treatments.
- In his December “Possibilities with Parkinson’s” column, Dr. C offers advice on seeking joy every day, cultivating an “attitude of gratitude,” and adapting to the “exaggerated pain and emotions” Parkinson’s causes him to feel. “When I can focus on joy, life with Parkinson’s is much better.”
PARKINSON’S SURVEYS AND CLINICAL TRIALS
Speech and Telemedicine Study – The Purdue Motor Speech Lab
Home Based Tele-exercise Study for People with Chronic Neurological Impairments – Burke Neurological Institute
Parkinson’s and Drooling – European Parkinson’s Disease Association (EPDA)
Parkinson’s and Service Dogs – University of Groningen, Netherlands
Neurology Study Interest Registry – University of Rochester
Park Test – University of Rochester
Project Euphonia – LSVT Global and Project Euphonia
BouNDless – Phase 3 trial to investigate the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of ND0612, a continuous subcutaneous levodopa/carbidopa delivery system in comparison to oral levodopa/carbidopa in people with Parkinson’s experiencing motor fluctuations
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