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 January 2019.
The post is divided into seven parts based on the type of research:
New clinical trials (Oooh, new section for 2019!)
Clinical trial news
So, what happened during January 2019?
In world news:
January 1st – All works published in 1923 (except sound recordings) lost copyright and entered the public domain in the United States. You may do what you like with Sigmund Freud‘s “The Ego and the Id”, Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”, and of course: “The Charleston”.
January 3 – The Chinese probe Chang’e 4 became the first human-made object to land on the far side of the Moon.
January 11th – Researchers at the University of Michigan demonstrated a new approach to 3D printing. It is based on lasers and simply the lifting of shapes from a vat of liquid. And it is 100 times faster than conventional 3D printing processes! It is rather amazing (Click here to read the research report and click here for the press release).
25 January – AlphaStar, a new artificial intelligence algorithim by Alphabet’s DeepMind subsidary, defeated professional players of the real-time strategy game StarCraft II in ten rounds out of eleven (I don’t even know what StarCraft II is, but this terrifies me).
30th January – The temperature in the city of Chicago hit a daytime high of -24C (-11F ?!?!?). It then dropped to a low of -28C overnight (I repeat: ?!?!?).
In the world of Parkinson’s research, a great deal of new research and news was reported:
In January 2019, there were 694 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached. In addition, there was a wave to news reports regarding various other bits of Parkinson’s research activity (clinical trials, etc).
At 9am on the 30th January, 2019, the Australian Government Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the initiation of the ‘Australian Parkinson’s Mission‘ – a very massive $30 million clinical trial programme that will be focused on potentially disease modifying treatments for Parkinson’s.
This huge endeavour will being with a large multi-arm study – involving 300 hundred participants and investigating 4 drugs (compared to a single placebo). It will be a first of its kind project in the world targeting Parkinson’s.
This is a very exciting development for the Parkinson’s community!
In today’s post, we will discuss what we currently know about the Australian Parkinson’s Mission project, what we hope to see resulting from the initiative, and why this is a tremendous step forward for the international Parkinson’s community as a whole.
Being a patriotic kiwi there is always enormous potential to make fun when writing a post about any Parkinson’s-related news coming out of Australia. New Zealand and Australia have always had a big brother/little brother kind of relationship (and just so we are clear: NZ is the big brother!).
But today is different.
It is very strange to say, but… today… I am actually very proud of you Australia.
At 9am this morning at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Greg Hunt – the Federal Health Minister of the Australian Government – announced the commencement of a major clinical trial initiative (named ‘The Australian Parkinson’s Mission‘), which is going to be a very large, world-leading clinical programme focused on potentially disease modifying drugs for Parkinson’s (Click here to read the press release).
Struth mate!!! This sounds fantastic. What do we know about the study?
The year 2018 was the 20th anniversary of the discovery of the second genetic risk factor to be associated with Parkinson’s. In 1998, researchers reported that variations in a region of DNA called PARKIN were associated with an early onset form of the condition.
Early onset PARKIN-associated Parkinson’s, however, is rather different to other forms of the condition. For example, the PARKIN version appears to be largely isolated to the loss of dopamine neurons. In addition, it has limited involvement of the Parkinson’s-associated protein alpha synclein.
Recently, researcher and advocates have written a very thought provoking report pointing out these differences and and given the nature of this form of Parkinson’s, they have asked the question, why not conduct a cell transplantation clinical trial in people with early onset PARKIN-associated Parkinson’s?
It’s a really good question.
In today’s post, we will discuss what PARKIN is, what early onset PARKIN-associated Parkinson’s looks like, and why these researchers and advocates are on to a good idea.
Martin is also a co-author of a very interesting article recently published in the European Journal of Neuroscience:
Title: Are PARKIN patients ideal candidates for dopaminergic cell replacement therapies? Authors: Kunath T, Natalwala A, Chan C, Chen Y, Stecher B, Taylor M, Khan S, Muqit MMK. Journal: Eur J Neurosci. 2018 Dec 26. PMID:30586214 (This report is OPEN ACCESS if you would like to read it)
Note: This article is part of a special edition tribute to Tom Isaacs (co-founder of the Cure Parkinson’s Trust), and there are a number of very interesting OPEN ACCESS articles in that issue.
In their article, the authors propose that individuals with early onset Parkinson’s that is associated a PARKIN genetic variant are the ideal candidates for cell transplantation therapy.
Interesting. Tell me more. But what is a PARKIN genetic variant?
Recent analysis of blood samples collected during the Phase II clinical trial of Exenatide in Parkinson’s has uncovered a very interesting finding that could have major implications for not only Parkinson’s, but for many different neurological conditions.
Exenatide is a treatment that helps to control glucose levels in people with diabetes. More recently, however, it has been suggested that this drug may also have beneficial effects in Parkinson’s. A collection of clinical trials in Parkinson’s are currently unway to test this idea.
The researchers who conducted a Phase II clinical trial of Exenatide in Parkinson’s have analysed ‘exosomes‘ collected from the blood of participants, and they found something rather remarkable.
In today’s post we will discuss what exosomes are, what the researchers found, and why their discovery could have major implications for all of neurological research.
Here on the SoPD website we have discussed at length the Phase II clinical trial of Exenatide in Parkinson’s (Click here, here and here to read more about this).
This week, however, researchers involved in the study reported yet another really interesting finding from the trial. And this one could have profound consequences for how we study not only Parkinson’s, but many other neurological conditions.
What did they find?
Last week this report was published:
Title: Utility of Neuronal-Derived Exosomes to Examine Molecular Mechanisms That Affect Motor Function in Patients With Parkinson Disease: A Secondary Analysis of the Exenatide-PD Trial. Authors: Athauda D, Gulyani S, Karnati H, Li Y, Tweedie D, Mustapic M, Chawla S, Chowdhury K, Skene SS, Greig NH, Kapogiannis D, Foltynie T. Journal: JAMA Neurol. 2019 Jan 14. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2018.4304. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:30640362
In the Exenatide Phase II clinical trial, 60 people with moderate Parkinson’s were randomly assigned to receive either 2mg of Exenatide or placebo once weekly for 48 weeks followed by a 12-week washout (no treatment) period. The results suggested a stablisation of motor features over the 48 weeks of the study in the treated group (while the condition in the placebo group continued to progress).
During the study (which was conducted between June 2014 – June 2016), blood samples were collected at each assessement.
From those blood samples, serum was collected and analysed.
In previous posts, we have discussed some of the potential benefits of knowing your genetic status with regards to Parkinson’s. For example, knowing if you have a certain genetic risk factor could make eligible for taking part in a particular clinical trial.
There may, however, also be some benefits in NOT knowing your genetic status.
New research suggests that simply learning of a genetic risk can alter one’s physiology.
In today’s post, we will review the results of this new research and discuss what it could mean for the Parkinson’s community.
But curiously my powers of levitation have not (yet) returned…
The power of suggestion has always amazed me. Whether it is based on what others tell us, or on what we tell ourselves, it is truly wonderous the enormous impact some of the information we are given has on our lives. We seemingly get told something and quite often it is just accepted as gospel.
But as we take in that information, there can also be consequences (perceived or otherwise) resulting from that knowledge. And this can have important implications for us and how we interact with the world. In fact, some information that we absorb can affect our very physiology.
In this post, I will address a question that I get asked a lot: What would you do if you were diagnosed with Parkinson’s today?
Before we start, please understand that there is no secret magical silver bullet to be discussed in the following text. Such a thing does not exist, and anyone offering such should be treated with caution.
Rather, in this post I will spell out some ideas (or a plan of attack) of what I would consider doing if I was confronted with a diagnosis today and how I would approach the situation.
Hi Simon, Love the website. I think you are amazing and I love your dreamy eyes and perfect hair.
[ok, I may be exaggerating just a little bit here] Given everything that you have read about Parkinson’s, what would you do if you were diagnosed with Parkinson’s today? Kind regards, John/Jane Doe
I get this kind of correspondence a lot, and you will hopefully understand that I am very reluctant to give advice on this matter, primarily for two important reasons:
I am not a clinician. I am a former research scientist who worked on Parkinson’s for 15 years (and now help co-ordinate the research at the Cure Parkinson’s Trust). But I am not in a position to be giving medical/life advice.
Even if I was a clinician, it would be rather unethical for me to offer any advice over the internet, not being unaware of the personal medical history/circumstances in each case.
While I understand that the question being asked in the email is a very human question to ask – particularly when one is initially faced with the daunting diagnosis of a condition like Parkinson’s – this is not an email that I like to receive.
I am by nature a person who is keen to help others, but in this particular situation I simply can’t.
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”
This quote has been attributed to General Dwight D. Eisenhower (Click here for the full story of this quote), and while the sentence does not immediately make a whole lot of sense, it does apply to our discussion here regarding research in Parkinson’s.
At the start of each year, it is a useful practise to layout what we are expecting and hoping to see in the world of Parkinson’s research over the next 12 months. This can help us better anticipate where ‘the battle’ may go, and allow us to prepare for things further ahead. Where it actually finishes is unpredictable, but where we currently stand will hopefully provide us with a useful measure.
In this post, I will lay out what we believe the next 12 months holds for us with regards to the Parkinson’s-related research.
And be warned: This is usually the longest post of the year.
In the introduction to last year’s outlook I wrote of the dangers of having expectations (Click here to read that post). A wise man (the great Charlie Munger) once said: If you want to lead a happy life, lower your expectations.
It is good advice, and as a rule, I try to follow it in life – I am a cup is completely empty kind of guy. I have no expectations, and so when anything happens – it is magic. I do have ambitions, but no expectations.
And others wrote about managing expectations in 2018 (Click here for a great example).
To put it plainly: Expectations are the primary cause of all disappointment.