Monthly Research Review – July 2022

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At the end of each month the SoPD writes a post which provides an overview of some of the major pieces of Parkinson’s-related research that were made available during July 2022.

The post is divided into 10 parts based on the type of research:

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So, what happened during July 2022?

In world news:

July 8th – Former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was assassinated while giving a public speech in the city of Nara, Japan.

 

July 11th – The first operational image (Webb’s First Deep Field) from the technologically amazing James Webb Space Telescope was presented to the public. The image revealed the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 – a cluster of galaxies about 4 billion light years from Earth (everything about this project excites me – especially Trappist 1):

July 28 – The Commonwealth Games began in Birmingham, England.

 

July 28th – DeepMind announced that their AlphaFold tool has determined the structures of almost every protein (around 200 million proteins) – just one year after releasing data on the first 20,000 proteins. The freely available 23-terabyte database represents “the beginning of a new era of digital biology” – click here to read more about this)

July 30th – Billionaire Bill Gates increased his commitment to Alzheimer’s research (Click here to read more about this)

In the world of Parkinson’s research, a great deal of new research and news was reported:

In July 2022, there were 894 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (7,103 for all of 2022 so far). In addition, there was a wave to news reports regarding various other bits of Parkinson’s research activity (clinical trials, etc).

The top 5 pieces of Parkinson’s news

Continue reading “Monthly Research Review – July 2022”

Spice up your life

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For a very long time, curcumin has been used as a nutritional and medicinal agent by many cultures.

Very recently, a clinical trial was conducted to explore the potential of curcumin on Parkinson’s. And the findings were interesting.

In today’s post, we will review the review the results of that study (and others).

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Source: News-medical

Next time you are speaking with your neighbour, you should point out to them that there is a great deal of diversity in the number of species of Curcuma plants.

In India alone, there is approximately 40 to 45 species. And in Thailand there is another 30 to 40 species. Throughout tropical Asia there are numerous wild species of Curcuma, and even New Guinea and northern Australia are known to have Curcuma plants.

Curcuma plants. Source: Pacificbulbsociety

Curcuma is a perennial, herbaceous flowering plant that belongs to the broader ginger family. The plants can reach a height of one meter and they produce numerous, edible rhizomes (creeping rootstalk).

Rhizomes. Source: Etsy

The interior of these rhizomes are yellow or orange and can be reduced into a powder.

That powder is the spice we call turmeric.

Great. But what does turmeric have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “Spice up your life”

Hydroxychloroquine… I kid you not

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I was reluctant to write this post given the media storm that tainted this drug during the early days of the COVID pandemic, but the science here is intriguing.

Recently, researchers conducted a nationwide case-controlled study of 22,189 Finnish people diagnosed with Parkinson’s between 1996 to 2015.

When they analysed their large dataset, they found an association between hydroxychloroquine and a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will review this new research and discuss what could explain this curious finding.

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Dr Didier Raoult. Source: Letelegramme

On March 16, 2020, a video discussing a small study investigating the use of a drug called hydroxychloroquine in patients with SARS-CoV-2 was posted on YouTube (and a few days later a report on the study was made available).

It was an open-label, non-randomized study involving just 36 hospitalized patients with documented SARS-CoV-2 infections. It was a methodologically flawed study and making the results public without any kind of peer-review step was unethical, but this did not stop these results causing a media storm. And news of a potential first weapon in the fight against the new viral pandemic quickly spread, causing shortages in supplies of the drug for individuals with inflammatory conditions who actually needed it.

Eventually, a number of much larger and better designed clinical trials demonstrated that the drug did not represent a sensible treatment against COVID (Click here to read more about this).

But sadly, a previously very useful treatment became somewhat tainted. And it has since been the subject of many jokes, cartoons and memes:

Source: TheWeek

Despite its 15 minutes of ignominy though, hydroxychloroquine is still a very useful drug and it may still hold one or two surprises.

Great. But what does this have to do with Parkinson’s? 

Continue reading “Hydroxychloroquine… I kid you not”

The heights of Parkinson’s

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Being tall is considered desirable in many cultures.

Recent research suggests that height may be associated with an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will review this new research and try to understand what it could mean.

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Wadlow (back row on the left). Source: Telegraph

Robert Pershing Wadlow was always in the back row of school photos.

Born February 22nd 1918, Wadlow’s birth certificate indicated that he was “normal height and weight“, but from that point onwards, there was nothing normal about his rate of growth.

By the time, Robert was 8 years old, he was taller than his father (he was 6 foot/183cm). And eight years later when he turned 16, Robert was 8 foot 1 (2.47 m)… and he was still growing.

Here is a picture of him with his family at 19 years of age:

Source: Businessinsider

Robert was the tallest person in recorded history, and at the time of his death – at the tragically young age of 22 – Robert was almost 9 feet tall (8 ft 11; 2.72 m)… and still growing! (due to hyperplasia)

While not quite reaching the same lofty heights as Robert, I can sort of relate to his situation. You see, in addition to being freakishly good looking, I’m also on the tall side side of things.

On a good day, I am 6 foot 8 (207cm), but often 6 foot 7 around bed time (gravity is a drag!).

Whoa, that’s tall. But what does any of this have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “The heights of Parkinson’s”

Finding religion

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According to collected statistics, about 85% of the world’s people identify with a religion (Source). 

Curiously, new research suggests that people in the remaining “non-religious” 15% may be at higher risk of developing Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will review the new research and try to understand this strange association.

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Source: Gotquestions

Before we start, I think that it is only fair to state that while I fully respect the rights of others to believe and practice what they want in terms of philosophical/religious beliefs (as long as it does not harm), I am an apatheist.

Pray tell, what is an apatheist? Is that like an atheist?

No.

The apatheist position holds that the existence or non-existence of God(s) is utterly irrelevant. We are apathetic towards the question of “God”.

It is not a stance based on skepticism (like atheists or agnostics), but rather a lack of interest in the subject matter itself. Basically, the big picture question does not warrant any time or effort in the life of an apatheist. We simply do not care.

(I say “we”, but I am not a card-carrying member of any formal group, it is simply the designation that I can define myself by when folks come knocking on my door)

And for the record, my daughter is a practicing Christian, and I support her in her faith.

Ok, very nice, thanks for sharing, but…uh,… what does this have to do with Parkinson’s?

Actually, new research suggests quite a lot.

What do you mean?

Continue reading “Finding religion”

Monthly Research Review – June 2022

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At the end of each month the SoPD writes a post which provides an overview of some of the major pieces of Parkinson’s-related research that were made available during June 2022.

The post is divided into 10 parts based on the type of research:

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So, what happened during June 2022?

In world news:

June 9th – researchers reported that Zophoba Morio “superworms” were perfectly happy to eat plastic. The worms could partially digest foamed polystyrene (Styrofoam) and gain weight, suggesting they were able to attain some nutrition from the material (Source).

 

June 13th – A senior software engineer at Google named Blake Lemoine was suspended after sharing transcripts of a conversation with an artificial intelligence known as  LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) that Lemoine claimed to be “sentient”.

 

June 14Canada and Denmark ended their competing claims for Hans Island. The island lies in the middle of the Kennedy Channel between Greenland and Ellesmere Island. By dividing the island roughly in half, the two countries peacefully ended the 40+ years “Whisky War“.

 

June 24th  – The US Supreme Court overruled Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on the grounds that the substantive right to abortion was not “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history or tradition“, nor considered a right when the Due Process Clause was ratified in 1868, and was unknown in U.S. law until Roe (Source).

 

June 29th – Scientists (at the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service – an organization in charge of global timekeeping) recorded the shortest day on Earth since the invention of the atomic clock. Our planet’s rotation measured in at 1.59 milliseconds short of the normal 24-hour day (Source).

In the world of Parkinson’s research, a great deal of new research and news was reported:

In June 2022, there were 864 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (6,209 for all of 2022 so far). In addition, there was a wave to news reports regarding various other bits of Parkinson’s research activity (clinical trials, etc).

The top 7 pieces of Parkinson’s news

Continue reading “Monthly Research Review – June 2022”

Does Yerbe Mate matter?

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For a long time we have known that coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s (Click here to read a previous SoPD post on this topic)

What is under appreciated, however, that that there are other beverages that display similar effects (both in epidemiological studies and preclinical models).

One interesting example is Yerba Mate.

In today’s post, we will discuss what Yerba Mate is, and explore how it could be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s. 

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Source: Googlemaps

Question: What is the national drink of Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay?

Uuuh, I don’t know. But what does this have to do with a blog about Parkinson’s research?

The answer to my question is Yerba Mate.

And we’ll get to the answer to your question in one moment.

Ok, so what is Yerba Mate?

Continue reading “Does Yerbe Mate matter?”

The modification of acidification

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In Parkinson’s research, a great deal of the attention is focused on a handful of proteins that are associated with Parkinson’s. The majority of this knowledge has come from the discovery of genetic variations being apparent in some member of the PD community.

The proteins (and biological pathways) underlying these genetic variations include alpha synuclein, LRRK2, PARKIN and GBA – all of which have been discussed on this website. But scientists have identified over 80 different regions of DNA that are associated with Parkinson’s and only recently have some of the proteins associated with these other regions of DNA been investigated.

One of these proteins is particularly interesting. It’s called TMEM175. And recently published research has provided new insights into this protein.

In today’s post, we will look at what is known about TMEM175 and discuss how biotech companies are therapeutically modulating it as a potential novel treatment for Parkinson’s.

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Source: Sciencetrends

Lysosomes are a key component of the waste disposal/recycling system of our cells.

They are small bags that are full of digestive enzymes that help to break down material inside of cells. Sometimes that material is newly imported from outside of the cell, while other times it may be old proteins that need to be disposed of.

Lysosomes provide the digestive enzymes for the job of breaking down the material.
Lysosomes

How lysosomes work. Source: Prezi

We haver discussed lysosomes in previous posts in more depth (Click here to read that SoPD post) – but understand that they are an absolutely critical component of normal biological function inside of cells.

Got it. What do they have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “The modification of acidification”

Planning ahead

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The old Benjamin Franklin adage reads “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”

Today’s post is all about planning for the unknown future.

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Source: Reddit

I would like to share something with you.

As some readers will be aware, last year I inherited an elderly care situation.

With an aging population, it is not a unique circumstance. And like many who find themselves in this role, I was definitely not ready for it.

It’s been a continuous and humbling learning experience, but increasingly it has been an all consuming task that has left little time for other matters (think: blogging). And while it has taken a toll in many different ways, perhaps it has left me a better person.

Regardless, there is an important purpose to sharing this otherwise very private matter.

There was a recent event that I would like to tell you about, for reasons that will become clearer as we go along.

Let’s begin:

Continue reading “Planning ahead”

Finding a talisman

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Experiential observations and anecdotal insights from the patient community have generated many key discoveries for the field of Parkinson’s research. A chance question (“Why do people with Parkinson’s smell different?” – click here to read more about that) or random interaction have opened doors to entirely new realms of research.

An good example of this are numerous reports of symptomatic relief at high altitudes. Some people with Parkinson’s find that when they are above a certain altitude, they are almost symptom free.

The mechanism of this phenomenon is unknown, but a new study in the Netherlands is hoping to help us better understand it.

In today’s post, we will discuss the Talisman study.

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Source: theplanetd

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked nation of 755,000 people in the Eastern Himalayas. It is embedded in the mountainous region between China and India, and it is one of the highest countries in the world – sitting at an average land elevation of 10,760 feet above sea level (Source).

Source: Koryogroup

Interesting facts about Bhutan (Source):

  1. Bhutan was the first country in the world to have specific constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. Among the requirements, at least 60% of the nation must remain under forest cover at all times.
  2. One-third of Bhutan’s population is under the age of 14 (its median age is 22.3 years).
  3. It is the only nation in the world where the sale of tobacco is completely banned.
  4. The capital (and largest) city, Thimpu (pop.: 114, 551), does not have a single traffic light.
  5. It was one of the last countries in the world to introduce television. The government lifted a ban on TV—and on the Internet—in 1999.

Interesting, but what does any of this have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “Finding a talisman”