Fruit flies and dopamine. Naked mole rats and longevity. The long-term efficacy of DBS. Dance intervention. Joint pain and Parkinson’s. AI for treatment. Check out the latest in Parkinson’s research, surveys, and stories and let us know if we missed anything. Happy reading!
PARKINSON’S ARTICLES AND PODCASTS
- To investigate whether different types and the severity of intestinal inflammation could trigger alpha-synuclein accumulation in the enteric nervous system before causing the subsequent development of alpha-synuclein brain disease, researchers from Van Andel Institute in Michigan and Roche Pharma Research in Switzerland studied a breed of mice that produces a mutant form of human alpha-synuclein. Results support previous findings that show how specific types and severity of intestinal inflammation, mediated by monocyte/macrophage signaling, may play a critical role in the initiation and progression of Parkinson’s.
- Researchers at National Taiwan University have published a study suggesting that osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) may cause incurable damage to the brain and that older adults suffering from osteoarthritis are at a much higher risk of developing Parkinson’s than those who are not. The team examined the health records of 33,360 people with Parkinson’s and found that older adults with degenerative joint disease have a 41% higher risk of developing Parkinson’s and that people experiencing knee or hip osteoarthritis appear to have even higher odds of developing Parkinson’s than adults with uncategorized osteoarthritis or joint pain in areas other than the knees or hips. “Health professionals need to be alert to the potential link between these two diseases,” the lead author says.
- Naked mole rats, who can live for more than 30 years and seemingly do not undergo the physiological deterioration that impacts most older animals, may “unlock the secret” to preventing and treating age-related conditions including Parkinson’s. In a paper recently published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers from the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom explain how investigating the anti-aging abilities of these animals could help scientists identify new targets for treating degenerative conditions.
- Using routine colonic biopsies from people living with idiopathic Parkinson’s, researchers in Germany investigated the expression of microRNAs to assess their value as a biomarker for Parkinson’s and to examine how they may impact its onset and progression. Data revealed that the biopsies from people with Parkinson’s showed significant submucosal enrichment of the microRNA hsa-miR-486-5p compared to people without Parkinson’s. The team believes their findings support future investigation of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of gastrointestinal dysfunction in Parkinson’s.
- In the journal Cell, researchers at the St. Jude Department of Structural Biology share how they have determined the first high-resolution structure of the full protein enzyme called LRRK2, whose aberrant forms are known to cause Parkinson’s. This complete, detailed structure may lead to the development of new therapies that can specifically target the mutated form of LRRK2.
- Findings from a study published in the journal Viruses show a molecular connection between COVID-19 and Parkinson’s, revealing that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection results in abnormal modification of some lung proteins, which are then transported by exosomes to the brain. There, these modified lung proteins can disrupt the normal functioning of proteins related to Parkinson’s. The researchers identified 24 highly expressed proteins in the human lung that can be modified by SARS-CoV-2 proteins, transported from the lungs to the brain, and potentially disrupt the normal physiological functioning of 44 proteins significantly expressed in the central nervous system (CNS) that are associated with Parkinson’s.
- Electrophysiological findings from a sleep study recently published in Movement Disorders showed significant disruptions in slow-wave sleep and REM sleep in people with Parkinson’s. The study’s authors suggest that the amount of time spent in N3 sleep and the ability to maintain non-REM and REM sleep may be potential biomarkers of Parkinson’s and that by impacting glymphatic fluid transport, Parkinson’s may cause a reduction in the clearance of brain waste that leads to sleep disturbances.
- Results from a study led by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Health suggest that a minimally invasive blood test that measures alpha-synuclein in blood exosomes can distinguish Parkinson’s from multiple system atrophy (MSA). This could prevent misdiagnoses and skewed clinical trial results while also helping people take action based on their diagnoses sooner.
- A personalized oral hygiene program and simple jaw exercises can help people with Parkinson’s improve their quality of life, a small study has suggested. Published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, the study found that after two months, people with Parkinson’s reported improvements in orofacial function (sensorimotor behaviors such as chewing, swallowing, speaking) and after four months showed improvements in their oral health impact profiles, their self-reported drooling scores, and their subjective mastication abilities.
- In their study that investigated possible links between mitochondrial and lysosomal dysfunction and Parkinson’s pathogenesis, researchers at the Brain Research Institute at Niigata University found that leakage of mitochondrial dsDNA into the cytosol environment of a cell can induce cytotoxicity (impairment) in brain tissue, suggesting that cytosolic leakage of mitochondrial DNA is highly toxic and could be a common and important characteristic of both familial and idiopathic Parkinson’s.
- The Michael J. Fox Foundation is funding four studies exploring the possible connections between toxic environmental factors and Parkinson’s, including toxins encountered in military service and regular exposure to pesticides and air pollution in different regions of the US.
PARKINSON’S THERAPIES AND MEDICATIONS
- With the goal of accelerating the development of new therapies for Parkinson’s, the Edmund J. Safra Foundation has awarded a $1.9 million grant to University College London that will support the establishment of a pioneering multi-arm multi-stage clinical trial platform that can quickly assess potential therapies that may slow or halt the progression of Parkinson’s. This process means that in a period of five years, 12 potential therapies can be tested, rather than the 40 years it typically takes to accomplish this task using a conventional clinical trial design.
- Data from a single-center study in France showed a sustained reduction in motor fluctuations in people with Parkinson’s who received two years of continuous treatment with apomorphine as an under-the-skin infusion. Continuous apomorphine treatment was also associated with a significant reduction in motor fluctuations, although its beneficial effects on dyskinesia were found to be temporary and mild.
- Engineers at Imperial College have founded a start-up in collaboration with a consultant neurologist at London’s Charing Cross Hospital with the goal of using artificial intelligence techniques to create a wearable device that monitors Parkinson’s symptoms, and perhaps even helps treat it. A trial is currently underway to assess the efficacy of the device.
- Results from a small study published in Neurology show that 15 years after deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, the treatment remained effective and resulted in a significant improvement in motor complications and a stable decrease in the use of dopaminergic medications. The researchers, from Grenoble Alpes University in France, also found that people with Parkinson’s who received DBS reported improvements in quality of life despite the natural progression course of their Parkinson’s.
- Brown University bioengineers have developed an algorithm that could allow DBS devices to sense activity in the brain and adjust stimulation accordingly. Published in the journal Cell Reports Methods, the research explains how the algorithm can detect and remove electrical interference produced by DBS devices, possibly leading to more effective, personalized treatment and potentially fewer side effects.
- Findings from a study led by researchers at Vanderbilt University highlight the benefits of targeting dopamine transporters as a Parkinson’s treatment strategy. The research team studied fruit flies to investigate how a rare mutation that causes Parkinson’s-like symptoms in young children interrupts the flow of dopamine in the brain, and the results of their study suggest that treatments focused on improving dopamine transport could help manage Parkinson’s symptoms.
- In the peer-reviewed journal Neurology and Therapy, Adamas Pharmaceuticals shared results from a post-hoc data analysis from two placebo-controlled Phase 3 clinical trials. Results showed that after 12 weeks, participants treated with GOCOVRI® reported statistically significant improvements in motor control for daily activities compared to those receiving a placebo. The overall treatment difference with GOCOVRI was driven primarily by statistically significant improvements related to freezing, tremor, and getting out of the bed, car, and/or a deep chair.
- Results from a small clinical trial showed that non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation, administered via a hand-held device by electroCore in a home setting, improved walking and motor abilities and eased freezing of gait in people with Parkinson’s.
- With hopes that its stem cell and gene therapy programs can address the root cause of Parkinson’s, Bayer, through its biotech subsidiary BlueRock Therapeutics, has given out the first dose of DA01, pluripotent stem cell-derived dopaminergic neurons, in a phase 1 test. The trial, with the goal of eventually enrolling 10 people with Parkinson’s across the US, will involve the surgical implantation of dopamine-producing cells into a part of the brain called the putamen to examine the safety and tolerability of DA01 cell transplantation a year after the procedure. Secondary goals are reviewing evidence of cell survival and examining DA01’s impacts on motor symptoms two years after surgery.
- In a phase 1b trial, Bayer, through the gene therapy unit known as AskBio (Asklepios BioPharmaceutical), is also targeting the putamen, this time with adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy. In this trial, an AAV will deliver a gene to increase GDNF gene expression, which in preclinical models has been shown to promote the regeneration of neurons and motor recovery.
- Researchers at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne have found a way to improve stem cell therapy by developing a drug that stops the stem cells from dividing and causing serious side effects. The team hopes to be able to test the therapy, in which stem cells are turned into dopamine cells and currently are injected into the brains of mice suffering from Parkinson’s, on people with Parkinson’s in five to 10 years.
- AbbVie has established a collaboration with Caraway Therapeutics to develop and commercialize Caraway’s novel small molecule therapeutics that target TMEM175, a potassium ion channel essential for lysosomal function. Mutations in TMEM175 have been implicated in Parkinson’s and potentially lead to an earlier age of Parkinson’s onset or elevated risk of dementia relative to idiopathic Parkinson’s.
- “We like to think of the management of Parkinson’s like a table that rests on four legs. There are drugs that replace the missing dopamine or mimic its effects; there is deep brain surgery; lots of different kinds of care; and then there is the importance of keeping patients and their families well informed and engaged.” In The Conversation, Parkinson’s experts Chrystalina Antoniades, Bastiaan Bloem, and Salil Patel explain how Parkinson’s treatment has come a long way in the past several years.
- Hope Biosciences Stem Cell Research Foundation has received FDA authorization for a Phase II clinical trial to assess the efficacy and safety of multiple intravenous infusions of allogeneic adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells in improving the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s. The Houston-based nonprofit research organization will become the first research organization in the US to conduct simultaneous trials that investigate the impacts of administering a participant’s own cells and donor cells on the same condition.
- A new DBS system known as “Sen-Sight” gives physicians the ability to alter stimulation based on a person’s unique brain anatomy. Because it also monitors brain signals and sends this information to the controller, programmers can fine-tune the brain stimulation to give the person with Parkinson’s even better motor control.
- Interested in learning more about DBS? The Michael J. Fox Foundation has just published an in-depth DBS guide that answers questions on everything from decision-making to living daily with the device.
PARKINSON’S LIVING WELL STORIES
- A nine-year-old in Wales whose grandfather is living with Parkinson’s recently climbed Snowden, the tallest mountain in Wales, to raise money and awareness about Parkinson’s. “I did this to support the family around me that live with these daily struggles and have found ways to manage and control their Parkinson’s symptoms,” he says.
- The New York Times shares highlights from a days-long email conversation between two long-time friends, both of whom were art directors and who are now both living with Parkinson’s. Take a look at their thoughts on the before-and-after of their Parkinson’s diagnoses.
- Chris Daigre, a dance teacher in Seattle who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, developed a virtual class for people with Parkinson’s and says it has helped him connect with others in a way that impacts him like no other dance class ever has.
- To test people with Parkinson’s ability to perceive and produce rhythm, a professor at Northeastern University led four months of “dance intervention.” At the end of this period, the participants exhibited fewer Parkinson’s symptoms, among other benefits.
- In his column “Possibilities with Parkinson’s,” Dr. C explains how studying his Parkinson’s like he would study a brain injury helps him manage the impact of emotions and pain and improve his quality of life.
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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