Monthly Research Review – June 2018

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 2018.

The post is divided into five parts based on the type of research (Basic biology, disease mechanism, clinical research, other news, and Review articles/videos). 


So, what happened during June 2018?

In world news:

June 12th – The 2018 North Korea–United States summit was held in Singapore. It was the first summit between a United States President and a North Korean leader.

June 14th – The 2018 FIFA World Cup started in Russia (unfortunately NZ did not qualify… so, go England!)

June 18th – Mexico football fans may have caused an earthquake in Mexico city while celebrating the win over Germany.

June 21st – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave birth to her first child, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford. “Te aroha” is a Maori waiata (song) about love and peace.

 

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

In June 2018, there were 642 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (4180 for all of 2018 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 8 pieces of Parkinson’s news

Continue reading “Monthly Research Review – June 2018”

Squalamine begets Trodusquemine

Researchers at Cambridge University published a new report this week that extends on a very interesting line of Parkinson’s research. The studies focus on a compound (and derivatives of that compound) that has been derived from the dogfish shark.

The protein – called Squalamine – has an amazing ability to prevent the Parkinson’s-associated protein alpha synuclein from clustering (or aggregating) together. The aggregation of alpha synuclein is considered to be a key component of the biology underlying Parkinson’s, and thus any compound that block/reduce this aggregation is viewed with therapeutic applications in mind.

Unfortunately there is a problem with squalamine: it does not cross the blood brain barrier (the protective membrane surrounding the brain).

But a derivative of squalamine – called Trodusquemine – does!

In today’s post, we will look at what Squalamine and Trodusquemine are, we will review the new research, and look at current clinical research efforts involving these compounds.


The effects of aggregated Alpha Synuclein protein in a neuron. Source: R&D

We often talk about one particular protein on this website. It is called alpha synuclein. It is one of the most common proteins in the human brain, and it appears to be centrally involved with Parkinson’s.

In the Parkinsonian brain, alpha synuclein clumps (or aggregates) together, which is believed to lead to the appearance of Lewy bodies.

What are Lewy bodies?

Continue reading “Squalamine begets Trodusquemine”

Monitoring Parkinson’s: Putting your finger on it

An important aspect of developing new potentially ‘curative’ treatments for Parkinson’s is our ability to accurately test and evaluate them. Our methods of assessing Parkinson’s at the moment are basic at best (UPDRS and brain imaging), and if we do not improve our ability to measure Parkinson’s, many of those novel treatments will fail clinical testing and forever remain just  “potentially” curative.

Researchers from Madrid (Spain) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed new technology that could aid in better measuring and monitoring of Parkinson’s over time.

And it is as easy as typing on your keyboard or sending a text message.

In today’s post, we will look at how the monitoring of typing could provide a useful ‘real world’ method of assessing people with Parkinson’s over time.


Measuring stuff. Source: Medium

When we think about new technology for the monitoring of Parkinson’s, we all too often think of a device that is strapped on to the body in order to measure tremor or speed of movement (Click here to read a previous post on wearable tech).

Or perhaps a smart phone app that has simple tests on it that individuals can use to assess themselves over time (Click here to read a previous post on this topic).

One of the issues with these approaches, however, is ‘adherence‘ – these devices require effort from the individual being assessed (they have to strap on the motion sensing device or remember to complete the task on the smart phone). And after the first week or so of using the device or the app, the novelty wears off and recordings may be less frequent.

Many of these methods are also slightly ‘unnatural‘, and they may deviate the individual from their normal way of life. For example, wearable tech is amazing, but the individual may find it uncomfortable to wear all the time or may alter aspects of their behaviour to better suit the wearing of the device.

Source: Cloudtweaks

A better approach would be to have methods of monitoring that require no effort from the individual. Tools that silently and seamlessly slip into the background of their lives and monitor continuously – the individual completely forgets about them, which provides a more unbiased assessment.

We have previously discussed some examples of more ‘real world/natural’ approaches (such as smart pills – Click here to read that post – and also with regards to sleep monitoring – Click here to read that post), and today we will explore another example: keyboard stroke monitoring.

What is keyboard stroke monitoring?

Continue reading “Monitoring Parkinson’s: Putting your finger on it”

Predicting subtypes of Parkinson’s

Today’s post involves massive multidimensional datasets, machine learning, and being able to predict the future.

Sound interesting?

Researchers are the National Institute on Aging and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign have analysed longitudinal clinical data from the Parkinson’s Progression Marker Initiative (PPMI) and they have found three distinct disease subtypes with highly predictable progression rates.

NOTE: Reading about disease progression may be distressing for some readers, but please understand that this type of research is critical to helping us better understand Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will look at what the researchers found and discuss what this result could mean for the Parkinson’s community.


Source: ScienceMag

Today I am going to break one of the unwritten rules of science communication (again) .

Until a research report has been through the peer-review process you probably should not be discussing the results in the public domain.

But in this particular case, the research is really interesting. And it has been made available on the OPEN ACCESS preprint depository website called BioRxiv.

Source: BioRxiv

I should add that this is not the first time we have discussed manuscripts on BioRxiv (Click here and here to read other post on Biorxiv manuscripts). We are regular rule breakers here at the SoPD.

So what does the new research investigate?

Continue reading “Predicting subtypes of Parkinson’s”

Prothena: Phase I results published

This week, biotech firm Prothena published the results of their Phase I safety and tolerance clinical trial of their immunotherapy treatment called PRX002 (also known as RG7935).

Immunotherapy is a method of artificially boosting the body’s immune system to better fight a particular disease. 

PRX002 is a treatment that targets a toxic form of a protein called alpha synuclein – which is believed by many to be one of the main villains in Parkinson’s. 

In today’s post, we will discuss what immunotherapy is, review the results of the clinical trial, and consider what immunotherapy could mean for the Parkinson’s community.


Source: uib

I have previously mentioned on this website that any ‘cure for Parkinson’s’ is going to require three components:

  1. A disease halting mechanism
  2. A neuroprotective agent
  3. Some form of cell replacement therapy

This week we got some interesting clinical news regarding the one of these components: A disease halting mechanism.

The Phase I results of a clinical trial being conducted by a company called Prothena suggest that a new immunotherapy approach in people with Parkinson’s is both safe and well tolerated over long periods of time.

The good folks at Prothena Therapeutics. Source: Prothena

What is immunotherapy?

Continue reading “Prothena: Phase I results published”

Is Radotinib ABL to beat Nilotinib?

 

At the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in 2015, the results of a small phase I clinical trial were presented and the Parkinson’s community got really excited by what they saw.

The study had investigated the use of a cancer drug called ‘Nilotinib’ (also known as Tasigna) on Parkinson’s and the initial results were rather interesting.

Two larger phase II clinical trials of Nilotinib in Parkinson’s are currently being conducted, but this week preclinical research of a new drug (called Radotinib) was published. And these new findings suggest that Nilotinib may have some impressive competition.

In today’s post, we will look at what Nilotinib and Radotinib actually do, we will review the new research, and we will discuss what the findings could mean for the Parkinson’s community.


Lots of research. Source: Thedaily

Earlier this week I wrote a post highlighting research involving a new drug (NLY01; a GLP1 receptor agonist) being developed for Parkinson’s (Click here to read that post). It was an amazing amount of work and a very impressive achievement for the research group that conducted the work.

It must have taken a long time to perform the experiments, and I figured that the researchers behind the study would probably take a well earned break.

You will understand that I was a little surprised the day after publishing the post, that I woke up to find that that same research group had published another rather remarkable amount of research… on a completely different novel drug (called Radotinib) which is also being developed for Parkinson’s!!!

Basically sums my reaction. Source: Canacopegdl

The words ‘You have to be kidding me‘ actually passed across my lips as I downloaded the new research report.

And the new drug is really interesting.

It is very similar to Nilotinib.

What is Nilotinib?

Continue reading “Is Radotinib ABL to beat Nilotinib?”

Blessed are the suppressed

Recently a study was published in which the researchers had used a large dataset from the the United States Medicare system. The dataset held medical prescriptions for beneficiaries aged 60–90 years.

In their analysis, the researchers found that several diagnoses commonly treated with immunosuppressant medications were inversely associated with Parkinson’s – suggesting that perhaps the immunosuppressants may be reducing the risk of developing PD.

When they looked closer at the immunosuppressants, the investigators found that of the six categories of immunosuppressants, two were clearly associated with a lower risk of PD.

In today’s post, we will discuss what immunosuppression means, we will review the data, and  we will consider some of the issues associated with immunosuppressants.


George Hitchings and Gertrude Elion. Source: Achievement

After her grandfather died of stomach cancer and her fiance died of inflammation of the heart, Gertrude Elion dedicated herself to a future in medical research.

But despite a passionate love for laboratory research and having an excellent academic record, she was unable to get a graduate fellowship (or even an assistantship) due to the gender discrimination that existed at the time.

In the late 1930s, she enrolled in secretarial school with the goal of saving enough money to continue her education and achieve her goal.

After a year and a half of temporary secretarial and teaching positions, having saved up enough money, Elion enrolled as Master’s student in chemistry at New York University. She worked part-time as a receptionist and later as a substitute teacher to pay for her expenses. And she spent nights and weekends in the laboratory doing her research. She completed her degree in 1941.

George & Gertrude in action. Source: Wikimedia

In 1944, Gertrude was hired by George Hitchings who was working at what is now the pharmaceutical company GlaxsoSmithKline. It was the beginning of an amazing collaboration! And even though she never achieved a PhD, the work that she and Hitchings did together – research that won them the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – not only changed the way we design new drugs, but also gave the world its first drugs for immunosuppression.

What is immunosuppression?

Continue reading “Blessed are the suppressed”

What do you do with a problem like Exenatide?

At 23:30 on the 3rd August 2017, the results of a phase II clinical trial investigating the use of a Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonist called Exenatide (Bydureon) in Parkinson’s were published the Lancet journal website.

The findings of the study were very interesting.

And after years of failed trials, the Parkinson’s community finally had a drug that appeared to be ‘doing something’. Naturally these results got many in the Parkinson’s community very excited.

Over the last couple of weeks, further research related to this topic has been published. In today’s post we will review some of this new research and ask some important questions regarding how to move forward with these results.


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In 2012, the Golden Goose Award was awarded to Dr John Eng, an endocrinologist from the Bronx VA Hospital.

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Dr John Eng. Source: Health.USnews

The Award was created in 2012 to celebrate researchers whose seemingly odd or obscure federally funded research turned out to have a significant and positive impact on society.

And despite the name, it is a very serious award – past Nobel prize winners (such as Roger TsienDavid H. Hubel, and Torsten N. Wiesel) are among the awardees.

This week a research report was published in the journal Nature Medicine that expanded on the work of Dr Eng (some 25 years after his big discovery).

And it could be very important to the Parkinson’s community.

Sounds intriguing. What did Dr Eng do?

Continue reading “What do you do with a problem like Exenatide?”

Don’t get mad! Get NAD!

Recently researchers have provided very interesting evidence that a form of vitamin B3, called Nicotinamide Riboside, may have beneficial effects for Parkinson’s.

Their data suggests that nicotinamide riboside was able to rescue problems in mitochondria – the power stations of cells – in both fly and human cell-based models of Parkinson’s.

And the results also suggest that this treatment could prevent the neurodegeneration of dopamine producing neurons.

In today’s post, we will discuss what nicotinamide riboside is, what is does in the body, how it may be having its beneficial effect, and we will consider the pros and cons of taking it as a supplement.


My pile of research reports to read. Source: Reddit

We have a serious problem in biomedical research at the moment.

Serious for ‘planet research’ that is (Good for ‘planet patient’! – click here to understand this sentence).

The problem is very simple: there is too much research going on, and there is now too much information to be absorbed. 

There has been an incredible increase in the number of research reports for ‘Parkinson’s’:

For Parkinson’s research alone, every day there is about 20 new research reports (approximately 120 per week). It used to be the case that there was one big research report per year. Then progress got to the crazy point of one big finding per month. And now things are ‘completely kray kray’ (as my 5 year old likes to say), with one new major finding every week!

On top of this, everyday there are new methodology reports, new breakthroughs in other fields that could relate to what is happening in PD, new clinical trial results, etc… The image below perfectly represents how many researchers are currently feeling with regards to the information flow:

How I feel most days. Source: Lean

Don’t get me wrong.

These are very exciting times, big steps are being made in our understanding of conditions like Parkinson’s. It’s just that it is really hard keeping up with the amazing flow of new data.

And this is certainly apparent here on the SoPD website. Occasionally, a few days after I publish something on a particular topic on the SoPD website, a fascinating new research report on that same topic will be published. When I get a chance to read it, I will sometimes add an addendum to the bottom of a post highlighting the new research.

Every now and then, however, the new research deserves a post all of its own.

Which is the case today.

A week after I published the recent Vitamin B3/Niacin post, a new study was published that dealt with a different form of Vitamin B3, called Nicotinamide Riboside. And the results of that study were really interesting.

Wait a minute. Vitamin B3 comes in different forms?

Continue reading “Don’t get mad! Get NAD!”

Xenon: A bright light for dyskinesias?

A recent study published by French, British and Swiss researchers has grabbed the attention of some readers.

The report suggests that the inert/noble gas, Xenon, has powerful anti-dyskinetic properties in both mouse and primate models of Parkinson’s with L-DOPA-induced dyskinesias.

Dyskinesias are involuntary movements that can develop over time with prolonged used of L-DOPA treatments.

In today’s post, we will discuss what Xenon is, how it may be reducing dyskinesias, and we will consider some of the issues associated with using Xenon.


Dyskinesia. Source: JAMA Neurology

There is a normal course of events following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

Yes, I am grossly over-generalising, and no, I’m not talking from personal experience, but just go with me on this for the sake of discussion.

First comes the shock of the actual diagnosis. For many it is devastating news – an event that changes the course of their future. For others, however, the words ‘you have Parkinson’s‘ can provide a strange sense of relief that their current situation has a name and gives them something to focus on.

This initial phase is usually followed by the roller coaster of various emotions (including disbelief, sadness, anger, denial). It depends on each individual.

The emotional rollercoaster. Source: Asklatisha

And then comes the period during which many will try to familiarise themselves with their new situation. They will read books, search online for information, join Facebook groups (Click here for a good one), etc.

That search for information often leads to awareness of some of the realities of the condition.

And one potential reality that causes concern for many people (especially for people with early onset Parkinson’s) is dyskinesias.

What are dyskinesias?

Continue reading “Xenon: A bright light for dyskinesias?”