Emotions and paradoxical kinesia. Chinese medicine and a zebrafish model. McIntyre powder and Parkinson’s risk. Service dogs and living well. An “e-nose” diagnostic test. Here’s what’s new in the world of Parkinson’s this month.
- With the help of a $3.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a team at Binghamton University in New York will investigate how rewiring serotonin-producing neurons may help people with advanced Parkinson’s better control their movement. The researchers hope to discover whether serotonin, which like dopamine is a neurotransmitter, may serve as a kind of “backup system” when dopamine-producing neurons die, as is the case in Parkinson’s.
- A study led by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and published in Neurology suggests that two drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, may lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s.
- Another study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, showed that mice treated with higher-than-normal doses of buspirone (an anti-anxiety medication) exhibited less evidence of neuron degeneration and more normalized behaviors than untreated mice.
- And in another animal model of Parkinson’s, a team of researchers from Dalian Medical University in China and the University of California, Davis, found that the dried root of a pea plant, called kushen, may alleviate symptoms of neuroinflammation in Parkinson’s when combined with a soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) inhibitor. The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- Researchers at Université Paris Sud published a Mendelian randomization study in Movement Disorders that found causal relationship between dairy consumption and Parkinson’s.
- For a study published in Scientific Reports, researchers explored data from the Swedish National registry for Parkinson’s Disease (“PARKreg”) and found that older age at onset is associated with a faster increase in the severity of motor symptoms, as well as a faster decline in quality of life.
- Through a collaboration between several labs at the University of Pittsburgh and one at the University of California, Santa Barbara, scientists will investigate the biological underpinnings of paradoxical kinesia, when a person with Parkinson’s suddenly has the ability to move quickly and fluidly. The team will study two circuits in the brain that may control voluntary movement: one that is damaged by Parkinson’s and one that the group hypothesizes is not affected by Parkinson’s, and that can be “switched on” by certain emotions.
- Research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who have had a heart attack may be less likely than the general public to develop Parkinson’s. Researchers at the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark reviewed more than one million health registries from the Danish National Health Service and found that compared to the control group, there was a 20% lower risk of Parkinson’s among people who had experienced a heart attack.
- A study by researchers in the UK and Canada and published in Scientific Reports suggests that people with Parkinson’s may have irregular frequency-following response (FFR), which contributes to altered perceptions of speech-like sounds. This discovery might explain why many people with Parkinson’s feel as if they’re yelling, even when others find it hard to hear them.
- After 10 years of proceedings, Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board agreed to recognize Parkinson’s as an occupational disorder linked to the use of McIntyre powder (an aluminum-based inhalant) in mining and similar industries. The decision follows a 2020 study by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Ontario that found that McIntyre powder is associated with higher Parkinson’s risk.
- An international team of researchers published a study in EMBO Reports that suggests the loss of the DJ-1 protein (which has been linked to the development of young onset Parkinson’s) may slow the decline in immune function that comes with aging.
- In a zebrafish model of Parkinson’s, treatment with Tongtian oral liquid (also called Tongtian Koufuye or TTKFY) helped prevent nervous system damage and normalize movement. TTKFY has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for quite some time and is believed to have antioxidant and neuroprotective effects. The study, which was published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, found that doses of 2 or 4 ml/L of TTKFY led to the growth of dopamine-producing neurons and improved the swimming speed and distance of the fish.
- Although a federal judge in Illinois who is overseeing a litigation case against Syngenta AG and Chevron USA dismissed public nuisance claims as part of the lawsuit, the companies continue to face state-law product liability claims by workers who say that paraquat, a commonly used herbicide, led to the development of their Parkinson’s.
- A study published in CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics suggests that vitamin D may be neuroprotective by helping astrocytes (glial cells that can be thought of as “nurse” cells for neurons) get rid of alpha-synuclein aggregates or by keeping astrocytes from becoming neurotoxic. The researchers believe their discovery may help scientists identify therapies and processes that promote the neuroprotective effects of astrocytes to help treat Parkinson’s.
- Scientists at Scripps Research published a study in The Journal of Neuroscience that investigates exactly how alpha-synuclein aggregates build up and spread from neuron to neuron, leading to the onset and progression of Parkinson’s. They found that a type of nitrogen-molecule reaction called S-nitrosylation can interact with a cellular protein called p62, which triggers this buildup and spread of alpha-synuclein aggregates. The team is now working to develop therapies that inhibit the S-nitrosylation of p62.
- Using previous findings that show that people with Parkinson’s produce distinct smells due to increased production of sebum, yeast, enzymes, and hormones, researchers have developed a portable, artificially intelligent olfactory system, or “e-nose,” that may be able to identify Parkinson’s during routine medical checkups.
- In an article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a multinational team of researchers describes the discovery and potential therapeutic impacts of subset of LRRK2-targeting nanobodies. This subset inhibits LRRK2 (a protein whose mutations are a leading cause of familial Parkinson’s) by a different mechanism than commonly used LRRK2 kinase inhibitors do. The researchers believe these nanobodies will be helpful research tools and may lead to the development of new Parkinson’s diagnostics and treatments.
PARKINSON’S treatments and THERAPIES
- Following approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) late last year, Avion Pharmaceuticals has now commercially launched DHIVY, the first and only carbidopa/levodopa fractional tablet designed to be divided, allowing for precise medication dosing.
- The FDA has approved for the first time investigational new drug (IND) applications for two Live Biotherapeutics (LBPs), biological products containing whole, live microorganisms that are aimed at preventing, treating, or curing a disease. As a result of the approval, 4D pharma will begin a first-in-human Phase I clinical trial of two LBPs, MRx0005 and MRx0029, in people with Parkinson’s later this year.
- Findings from a University of Copenhagen animal study published in Nature Communications suggest that using deep brain stimulation (DBS) to activate of a group of neurons located in the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN) might more effectively manage Parkinson’s motor symptoms than targeting other neurons. “These excitatory neurons in the caudal PPN are an ideal target for recovery of movement loss,” the researchers said.
- In a study supported by the National Institutes of Health and published in Redox Biology, researchers at the Oregon State University College of Science report having discovered a new class of potential drug targets, oxidized proteins, to treat Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative conditions.
- Through a new collaboration between Parkinson’s UK and Domainex, researchers will work to develop and optimize small molecule therapies to treat Parkinson’s by targeting excessive chronic inflammation in the brain.
- With funding from a National Endowment for the Arts grant, researchers at Iowa State University will investigate exactly why singing helps improve breathing and swallowing for people with Parkinson’s. They will also track changes in brain activity and biomarkers of stress and inflammation to better understand how the social benefits of singing with others can slow Parkinson’s progression.
- Researchers at the Salk Institute are exploring the possibility of replacing implanted electrodes in DBS surgery with a wireless external device and ultrasound waves to make the therapy accessible to more people living with Parkinson’s.
PARKINSON’S LIVING WELL STORIES
- Marty Lukaszewski and his service dog, Laverne, recently appeared on the Animal Planet show Puppy Bowl: More Ways to Serve to demonstrate the many ways service dogs can improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s.
- On Valentine’s Day, the Panama City Beach Parkinson’s Support Group put love on display. “I tell you I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her helping me,” one member with Parkinson’s said of his wife. “I wouldn’t be here right now if she wasn’t behind me.”
- Guy Deacon, who is living with Parkinson’s, talks about his plans to travel across Africa to raise Parkinson’s awareness.
PARKINSON’S SURVEYS, CLINICAL TRIALS, and volunteer opportunities
PRISM Parkinson’s Research Study – The PRISM Parkinson’s Research Study is evaluating an investigational drug to determine if it might slow down the progression of Parkinson’s. Click here to learn more and see if you’re eligible to enroll.
Pass to Pass Hikes for Parkinson’s – Pass to Pass is a nonprofit dedicated to raising Parkinson’s awareness while supporting hikers with Parkinson’s. This group of volunteers (and llamas!) offers multi-day backpacking and hiking trips on the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington, Oregon, and California. Participants are being recruited now for these exciting summer 2022 events. For more details and information, visit www.passtopass.org or contact Bill Meyer at 509-991-1212 or 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 a 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 interests in games and gameplay in 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.
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.
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.
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
Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) Screen Survey – The Michael J. Fox Foundation
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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