Stress tests to awaken “ghosts” in the brain. Gut bacteria as a root cause of Parkinson’s. Salivary caffeine levels as a Parkinson’s biomarker. Fecal microbiota transplants for symptom management. STARS to slow progression of GBA1-associated Parkinson’s. Check out the most important Parkinson’s research, surveys, and stories happening now and let us know if we missed anything. Happy reading!
PARKINSON’S ARTICLES AND PODCASTS
- Researchers from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Penn State College of Medicine have teamed up to develop an integrative approach to better understand the origins of Parkinson’s. Combining experimental and computational methods, they are seeking to understand how individual proteins may form the harmful aggregates that are known to contribute to the development of Parkinson’s. Their findings, they hope, could guide the development of new therapeutics to delay or stop the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
- Researchers from the University of Helsinki believe they have found the root cause of Parkinson’s. In their study published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, the team suggests that Parkinson’s could originate from hydrogen sulfide produced by intestinal bacteria. Analyzing fecal samples from 40 people, half of whom were living with Parkinson’s and half of whom were not, the researchers found comparatively high levels of a bacteria belonging to the Desulfovibrio genus (sulfate-reducing bacteria) in the gut microbiota of people with Parkinson’s. Because the Desulfovibrio bacteria produces substances such as hydrogen sulfide and lipopolysaccharide, and in some cases magnetite, their presence likely contributes to the onset of Parkinson’s, the paper suggests.
- Also exploring the connecting between the gut and neurodegenerative disorders, researchers at the University of Florida used the intestine of the roundworm model organism Caenorhabditis elegans to investigate whether specific species of bacteria play a role in the development of conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The team says their results point to the potential use of specific types of bacteria as a preventative and treatment strategy.
- For the first time in more than 20 years, Parkinson’s experts from around the world attended a two-day meeting with the World Health Organization (WHO) with the sole topic being global Parkinson’s policy and research. Discussions centered around the prevention of Parkinson’s, diagnosis, treatment, advocacy, and how Parkinson’s impacts low- and middle-income countries. The next step is a report to the United Nations.
- A study by researchers from the University of Ulsan College of Medicine in South Korea recently published JAMA Neurology, found that nitrogen dioxide is associated significantly with a higher risk for developing Parkinson’s. The finding supports previous research showing a potential link between air pollution and Parkinson’s.
- Researchers based at Harvard Medical School, who designed and used a new computer algorithm to analyze two large health-record databases, found that an early diagnosis of walking difficulties or tremors best predicted a future diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Published in the journal BMC Neurology, the study suggests that early identification of these symptoms will enable an earlier and faster diagnosis, a better understanding of the development of Parkinson’s, earlier treatment, and increased eligibility for clinical trials.
- New research, conducted by a team at the Alabama Udall Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, shows evidence of inflammation in the blood of people with Parkinson’s during its earliest stages, supporting the theory that inflammation is a major driver of Parkinson’s. The study also highlighted differences in the inflammation signature in women compared to men, lending more support to the idea that different approaches to treatment are needed based on the sex of the person with Parkinson’s.
- Measuring caffeine in saliva may help clinicians gauge the progression of a person’s Parkinson’s. For their study recently published in Scientific Reports, researchers measured caffeine levels in the saliva of 86 people with Parkinson’s, as well as 83 people without Parkinson’s. Data showed that the participants with moderate or advanced Parkinson’s had significantly lower salivary levels of caffeine, and salivary caffeine levels also showed a significant negative correlation with disease severity and duration (meaning that people with Parkinson’s who had lower levels of caffeine in their saliva were statistically more likely to have more severe Parkinson’s and to have been living with Parkinson’s for longer). The researchers believe the correlation between salivary caffeine levels and Parkinson’s severity and duration suggests that salivary caffeine may be a biomarker of Parkinson’s progression.
- Because anxiety is a common non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s and appears to be unique to everyone who experiences it, healthcare providers should tailor their treatment response to each individual person. This is the conclusion reached by researchers investigating “the lived experience of anxiety” for people with Parkinson’s, who say that the lack of medications that specifically target Parkinson’s-related anxiety and a small amount of research documenting individuals’ experiences with anxiety in Parkinson’s are concerns.
- Having found that signs of Parkinson’s can be detected in the nose years before the onset of common motor symptoms, researchers at the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria believe the development of a nasal swab test for Parkinson’s could lead to earlier diagnosis.
- Another sign of Parkinson’s that could lead to earlier diagnosis, according to a neurologist in Taiwan, is nighttime sweating on the forehead only. Parkinson’s impacts the body’s ability to sweat by affecting the autonomic nervous system, and Dr. Yeh Shou-cheng, director of neurology at Cheng Ching Hospital’s Chung Kang Branch, says having frequent nightmares that result in nighttime sweating that occurs on their forehead might be an early sign of Parkinson’s.
- Data from a study in mice suggests that the toxic features of the E46K mutant version of alpha-synuclein, which is associated with early-onset, severe familial Parkinson’s, can be passed on to the healthy version, thereby increasing alpha-synuclein-associated nerve cell death. These findings shed light on the underlying mechanisms of some cases of severe familial Parkinson’s.
- In their paper recently published in Nature Genetics, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital explain the “genetic architecture” of Parkinson’s progression and prognosis, identifying five genetic locations associated with Parkinson’s progression and the likelihood of developing dementia. The genome-wide survival study (GWSS) looked at 11.2 million genetic variants in 3,821 people with Parkinson’s over 31,578 longitudinal study visits conducted over the course of 12 years. Having discovered five progression loci – points in the genome where genetic variants were associated with time from the onset of Parkinson’s to its progression to the onset of dementia – the team believes that the genetic triggers responsible for causing Parkinson’s and the genetic drivers progressively advancing it might be largely different.
- A new “brain stress test” being developed by researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne may have the ability to predict the onset of hallucinations in people with Parkinson’s. Using a robotic-medical device and a procedure that can safely and under controlled conditions provoke a presence hallucination (a “ghost” hidden in specific networks of the brain), the team has invented a tool they hope will help physicians test a person with Parkinson’s sensitivity to hallucinations, providing an objective biomarker for more severe forms of Parkinson’s that are associated with hallucinations and cognitive deficits.
- Seeking to better understand barriers to vaccination for people with Parkinson’s, researchers recently conducted a cross-sectional US-based study and published their findings in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease. Of the study cohort, 9.8% were identified to have missed all influenza vaccinations in the past five years, with 32.2% reporting they hadn’t received any pneumococcal vaccination. Vaccine hesitancy was reported in 35% of participants; 12.6% of the people with Parkinson’s who were interviewed thought their care provider recommended against vaccines for those with the condition, and 31.5% were unsure of vaccine recommendations for people with Parkinson’s. “In light of COVID-19, neurologist reinforcement that vaccinations are indicated, safe, and recommended may be beneficial,” said the study’s authors.
- Also recently published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, a paper highlights how a new model of Parkinson’s may explain the “perplexing asymmetrical motor symptoms” of Parkinson’s, tremor and slowness of movement, as well as other known variations such as different degrees of constipation and sleep disorders among people with Parkinson’s. By integrating findings already available from clinical and imaging studies of people with Parkinson’s, animal models of Parkinson’s, and postmortem findings in brain tissue from people with Parkinson’s, the team developed a unifying model that “seems capable of explaining why [Parkinson’s] is often an asymmetric disease in the first place, but also why some patients show more asymmetry than others and some no asymmetry at all. It also explains why certain subtypes of PD seem to exist, including why constipation and sleep disorders emerge prior to diagnosis only in some patients.”
- Global WholeHealth Partners Corp, a multinational supplier of more than 70 FDA-approved diagnostic tests, has attained the means to identify and test for Parkinson’s using a Micro-Well Reader or Lateral Flow Test to measure the certain brain enzymes during the data collection process used in a positive diagnosis. CEO Charles Strongo says that “this could simply be described as nothing short of a medical breakthrough in Parkinson’s disease diagnostic testing for us.”
- Listen in as Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassador and YOPD Council Leader Kat Hill interviews International Parkinson’s Foundation’s Melissa Rehm on a recent PD Lemonade podcast episode.
- Warren Butvinik explores the subject of apathy and Parkinson’s with movement disorder specialist Dr. Sub on a May episode of the Help with Parkinson’s podcast.
- Hear what advice Brian, who was diagnosed with YOPD at age 40, would tell his newly diagnosed self if he could go back in time in a recent Parkinson’s and Me podcast episode.
- On a recent Michael J. Fox Foundation’s podcast episode, you can learn about some of the benefits and risks of participating in Parkinson’s research.
- In May, the When Life Gives You Lemons podcast turns its attention to Parkinson’s care partners, including discussions about how to advocate for yourself and manage common challenges.
PARKINSON’S THERAPIES AND MEDICATIONS
- Researchers from York University and King’s College London have developed a nasal hydrogel spray that allows levodopa to line the nasal tissue and gain a fast track straight to the brain. This technique not only speeds delivery but also means less levodopa is required per dose. (When taken orally, some levodopa is lost when it is metabolized in the liver, and some is later filtered out by the blood-brain barrier. The nasal hydrogel application allows for more of the administered dose to actually make its way into the brain.)
- Scientists from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed a slow-release pill for Parkinson’s that delivers levodopa over a period of 24 hours, using the stomach as a drug “reservoir.” The team believes the new drug formulation, which requires just one pill per day, will help manage the wearing-OFF periods and dyskinesia that many people with Parkinson’s experience. The start-up that developed the drug is now working with clinical partners to plan clinical trials in Singapore and/or other territories.
- A new formulation of rasagiline that is applied to the skin and then absorbed into the body has shown promise in a rat model as a Parkinson’s therapy. This kind of transdermal application would solve issues some people with Parkinson’s experience when taking the oral formulation of the drug, such as needing frequent doses, inconsistent effects due to the speed of digestion, and swallowing difficulties.
- In a small study, people with Parkinson’s who received a transplant of healthy gut microbiota into their intestines felt relief from gastrointestinal problems, including constipation, and fewer motor and non-motor symptoms. Researchers from The Affiliated Suzhou Hospital of Nanjing Medical University in China reported that in addition to lessening several motor and non-motor symptoms, the fecal microbiota transplants positively changed the diversity and richness of gut bacteria in the people with Parkinson’s.
- Psychedelics biotech company PharmaTher announced this month that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved their investigational new drug application to proceed with a Phase 2 clinical trial to evaluate the safety, efficacy, and pharmacokinetics of ketamine in the treatment of levodopa-induced dyskinesia in people with Parkinson’s. Enrollment for the next phase is scheduled to begin later this year.
- Results from Denali Therapeutics Inc.’s Phase 1 study of healthy volunteers and a Phase 1b study of people with Parkinson’s showed achievement of robust target and pathway engagement with BIIB122/DNL151 treatment.
- BioArctic AB and Alligator Bioscience have partnered to research and develop new antibody therapeutic candidates for treating Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. BioArtic will utilize Alligator’s phage display platform, which can screen large numbers of proteins for potential interactions with other biological molecules, to develop disease-modifying therapies that can selectively stop malformed alpha-synuclein — a protein closely tied to Parkinson’s — from passing between nerve cells.
- Special compounds called STARs (small-molecule structurally targeted allosteric regulators), developed by Gain Therapeutics, have been shown to successfully bind to and restore the activity of mutant GCase (an enzyme that is an important component of cells’ recycling factories), which can then reduce the toxic accumulation of alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s. The STARS compounds also promoted cell survival and reduced alpha-synuclein accumulation in cultured rat dopamine neurons — those that are gradually lost during the course of Parkinson’s.
- Early results from Annovis Bio’s double-blind, placebo-controlled mid-stage trial for ANVS401, its lead drug candidate for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, showed that the levels of inflammatory markers in people with Parkinson’s who were treated with ANVS401 were “significantly lower” than before treatment.
- The investigational “regenerative immunotherapy” ImmCelz has been shown in mouse models to inhibit the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms and help protect dopamine-producing neurons. In addition, the researchers reported an increase in brain levels of interleukin-10, an anti-inflammatory molecule. Initially developed for the treatment of stroke, ImmCelz has yielded promising results in preclinical models of liver failure, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Creative Medical Technology Holdings, the company that developed ImmCelz, has filed an investigational new drug (IND) application with the FDA seeking approval to begin clinical trials.
- Having recently met the goal of recruiting and performing genetic testing of 10,000 participants, CENTOGENE has extended its Rostock International Parkinson’s Disease (ROPAD) Study to recruit and test an additional 2,500 people with Parkinson’s by the end of 2021. “By extending this study…we will be able to unveil deeper data on Parkinson’s disease genetics, diagnose patients earlier, and accelerate personalized Parkinson’s treatments,” says Dr. Peter Bauer, Chief Genomic Officer.
PARKINSON’S LIVING WELL STORIES
- A middle school robotics team at Highlander Way Middle School in Howell, MI, has invented a special boxing bag to help people with Parkinson’s stay mentally and physically healthy. Made of foam pads surrounded by LED lights that signal where and when to hit the bag, the bags and lights can be adjusted to individual users. Instead of manufacturing and selling their product, the team plans to give their design to other FIRST Tech Challenge teams with Rock Steady Boxing classes in their area.
- Diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s at age 21, Samantha Felder says she quickly realized she could laugh, or she could cry. After experiencing the onset of symptoms in high school, she now focuses on educating others, fundraising for Parkinson’s research, and keeping her sense of humor.
- Betty White, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014 and attributes boxing and a healthy diet to helping her live well, shares her story with St. Paul’s Star Tribune about overcoming grief and navigating Parkinson’s as one of the few Black members of Rock Steady Boxing.
- Broadcaster Jeremy Paxman, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, says he will donate his brain to science. “Jeremy choosing to speak publicly about his diagnosis will do so much to raise awareness of this much-misunderstood condition,” says Shān Nicholas of Parkinson’s UK.
- Having learned how dancing and music can slow the progression of Parkinson’s, Louisiana Tech is now offering a dance class, in addition to boxing, to people with Parkinson’s. “The most beneficial part of this group is the camaraderie that comes from these people being together,” one of the class members said.
- Likewise, in Virginia, the Bowen McCauley Dance Company, in partnership with the Maryland Youth Ballet, will continue to offer free dance classes for people living with Parkinson’s. “It’s not a cure, but the class, the music, having to remember the movements, being in a room with professional dancers, doing creative things, being graceful—it transforms people.“
PARKINSON’S SURVEYS, CLINICAL TRIALS, and volunteer opportunities
If you are living with Parkinson’s and experiencing motor fluctuations, you are invited to join the BouNDless clinical trial, which is investigating ND0612, a solution of carbidopa/levodopa delivered as a continuous subcutaneous (under the skin) infusion through a pump system. The researchers are exploring whether the administration of carbidopa/levodopa as a continuous infusion will result in more constant medication levels in the blood, which may reduce Parkinson’s symptoms better than some standard treatments.
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.
Want to learn more about findings around OFF and dyskinesia? Check out this infographic.
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.
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
Project Euphonia – LSVT Global and Project Euphonia
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