Search results for: egcg

EGCG: Anyone fancy a cuppa?

 

The clustering (or aggregation) of the protein, alpha synuclein, is a cardinal feature of the Parkinsonian brain, and it is believed to be associated with the neurodegeneration that characterises the condition.

As a result, many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are focused a great deal of attention on identifying novel compounds that can enter the brain and inhibit alpha synuclein from aggregating. Recently, a collaboration of companies published the results of an amazingly large study highlighting novel inhibitors.

But an interesting aspect of the results was the ‘positive control’ compound they used: Epigallocatechin Gallate (or simply EGCG)

In today’s post, we will review the results of the study, discuss what EGCG is, and look at what is known about this compound in the context of Parkinson’s.

 


Source: Cargocollective

Every now and then, the research report of a huge study comes along.

And by that, I don’t mean that the results have a major impact. Rather, I am referring to the scope and scale of the work effort required to conduct the study. For example, the GIANT study which is looking for genetic variations associated with height (Click here to read a previous SoPD post that briefly touches on that study).

Recently, the report of one huge study was published:

Title: Potent α-Synuclein Aggregation Inhibitors, Identified by High-Throughput Screening, Mainly Target the Monomeric State
Authors: Kurnik M, Sahin C, Andersen CB, Lorenzen N, Giehm L, Mohammad-Beigi H, Jessen CM, Pedersen JS, Christiansen G, Petersen SV, Staal R, Krishnamurthy G, Pitts K, Reinhart PH, Mulder FAA, Mente S, Hirst WD, Otzen DE.
Journal: Cell Chem Biol. 2018 Aug 29. pii: S2451-9456(18)30271-X.
PMID: 30197194

In this study, researchers from Arrhus University, Biogen, Amgen, Genentech, Forma Therapeutics, & Alentis Pharma screened almost 750,000 different compounds for their ability to interact with the Parkinsons-associated protein alpha synuclein.

And before we go any further, just take a moment to fully appreciate the size of that number again:

Source: peopleforbikes

That is eye watering stuff! That is a “I need to sit down for a moment and let this sink in” kind of number. That is a “Are there that many compounds in all of the known universe?” number.

After reading the number, I was left wondering what each of the scientists involved in this study must have been thinking when the boss first said “Hey guys, let’s screen half a million compounds…. no, wait, better yet, why stop there. Let’s make it 3/4 of a million compounds

How enthusiastic was the “Yes boss” response, I wonder?

All kidding aside, this is an amazing study (and the actual number of compounds screened was only 746,000).

And the researchers who conducted the study should be congratulated on their achievement, as the results of their study may have a profound impact in the longer-term for the Parkinson’s community – you see, the researchers found 58 compounds that markedly inhibited the aggregation of alpha synuclein, as well as another 100 compounds that actually increased its aggregation. A great deal of research will result from this single, remarkable piece of work.

But of particular interest to us here at the SoPD, was the activity of one of the positive control compounds that the researchers used in some of the tests.

What was the control compound?

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Get more EGCG. Drink green tea.

green-tea-leaves

We have previously written about the benefits of drinking coffee in reducing one’s chances of developing Parkinson’s disease (Click here for that post). Today, however, we shift our attention to another popular beverage: Tea.

Green tea in particular. Why? Because of a secret ingredient called  Epigallocatechin Gallate (or EGCG).

Today’s post will discuss why EGCG may be of great importance to Parkinson’s disease.


cup and teapot of linden tea and flowers isolated on white

Anyone fancy a cuppa? Source: Expertrain

INTERESTING FACT: after water, tea is the most widely consumed drink in the world.

In the United Kingdom only, over 165 million cups of tea were drunk per day in 2014 – that’s a staggering 62 billion cups per year. Globally 70 per cent of the world’s population (over the age of 10) drank a cup of tea yesterday.

Tea is derived from cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub native to Asia.

800px-csinensis

The leaves of  Camellia sinensis. Source: Wikipedia

There are two major varieties of Camellia sinensis: sinensis (which is used for Chinese teas) and assamica (used in Indian Assam teas). All versions of tea (White tea, yellow tea, green tea, etc) can be made from either variety, the difference is in the processing of the leaves.

800px-teaprocessing-svg

The processing of different teas. Source: Wikipedia

There are at least six different types of tea based on the way the leaves are processed:

  • White: wilted and unoxidized;
  • Yellow: unwilted and unoxidized but allowed to yellow;
  • Green: unwilted and unoxidized;
  • Oolong: wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized;
  • Black: wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized; (called “red tea” in Chinese culture);
  • Post-fermented: green tea that has been allowed to ferment/compost (“black tea” in Chinese culture).

(Source: Wikipedia)

More than 75% of all tea produced in this world is considered black tea, 20% is green tea, and the rest is made up of white, Oolong and yellow tea.

What is the difference between Green tea and Black tea?

Green tea is made from Camellia sinensis leaves that are largely unwilted and heated through steaming (Japanese style) or pan-firing (Chinese style), which halts oxidation so the leaves retain their color and fresh flavor. Black tea leaves, on the other hand, are harvested, wilted and allowed to oxidize before being dried. The oxidation process causes the leaves to turn progressively darker.

So what does green tea have to do with Parkinson’s disease?

In 2006,this research paper was published:

egcg-1-title

Title: Small molecule inhibitors of alpha-synuclein filament assembly
Authors: Masuda M, Suzuki N, Taniguchi S, Oikawa T, Nonaka T, Iwatsubo T, Hisanaga S, Goedert M, Hasegawa M.
Journal: Biochemistry. 2006 May 16;45(19):6085-94.
PMID:16681381

In this study, the researchers tested 79 different chemical compounds for their ability to inhibit the assembly of alpha-synuclein into fibrils. They found several compounds of interest, but one of them in particular stood out: Epigallocatechin Gallate or EGCG

imgf000007_0001

The chemical structure of EGCG. Source: GooglePatents

Now, before we delve into what exactly EGCG is, let’s take a step back and look at what is meant by the “assembly of alpha-synuclein into fibrils” (???).

Alpha Synuclein

We have previously written a lot about alpha synuclein (click here for our primer page). It is a protein that has been closely associated with Parkinson’s disease for some time now. People with mutations in the alpha synuclein gene are more vulnerable to developing Parkinson’s disease, and the alpha synuclein protein is found in the dense circular clumps called Lewy bodies that are found in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease.

Fig2_v1c

A lewy body (brown with a black arrow) inside a cell. Source: Cure Dementia

What role alpha synuclein plays in Parkinson’s disease and how it ends up in Lewy bodies is the subject of much research and debate. Many researchers, however, believe that it all depends on how alpha synuclein ‘folds’.

The misfolding of alpha synuclein

When a protein is produced (by stringing together amino acids in a specific order set out by RNA), it will then be folded into a functional shape that do a particular job.

Alpha synuclein is slightly different in this respect. It is normally referred as a ‘natively unfolded protein’, in that is does not have a defined structure. Alone, it will look like this:

PBB_Protein_SNCA_image

Alpha synuclein. Source: Wikipedia

By itself, alpha synuclein is considered a monomer, or a single molecule that will bind to other molecules to form an oligomer (a collection of a certain number of monomers in a specific structure). In Parkinson’s disease, alpha-synuclein also aggregates to form what are called ‘fibrils’.

as-oligos

Microscopic images of Monomers, oligomers and fibrils. Source: Brain

Oligomer versions of alpha-synuclein are emerging as having a key role in Parkinson’s disease. They lead to the generation of fibrils and may cause damage by themselves.

oligomers

Source: Nature

It is believed that the oligomer versions of alpha-synuclein is being passed between cells – and this is how the disease may be progressing – and forming Lewy bodies in each cells as the condition spreads.

For this reason, researchers have been looking for agents that can block the production of alpha synuclein fibrils and stabilize monomers of alpha synuclein.

And now we can return to EGCG.

What is EGCG?

Epigallocatechin Gallate is a powerful antioxidant. It has been associated with positive effects in the treatment of cancers (Click here for more on that).

And as the study mentioned near the top of this blog suggested, EGCG is also remarkably good at blocking the production of alpha synuclein fibrils and stabilizing monomers of alpha synuclein. If the alpha synuclein theory of Parkinson’s disease is correct, then EGCG could be the perfect treatment.

f6-large

EGCG blocks the formation of oligomers. Source: Essays in Biochemistry

And there have been many studies replicating this effect:

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Title: EGCG remodels mature alpha-synuclein and amyloid-beta fibrils and reduces cellular toxicity
Authors: Bieschke J, Russ J, Friedrich RP, Ehrnhoefer DE, Wobst H, Neugebauer K, Wanker EE.
Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 27;107(17):7710-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910723107.
PMID: 20385841            (This article is OPEN ACCESS if you would like to read it)

In this particular study, the researchers found that EGCG has the ability to not only block the formation of of alpha synuclein fibrils and stabilize monomers of alpha synuclein, but it can also bind to alpha synuclein fibrils and restructure them into the safe form of aggregated monomers.

And again, what has Green tea got to do with Parkinson’s disease?

Green tea is FULL of EGCG.

In the production of Green tea, the picked leaves are not fermented, and as a result they do not go through the process of oxidation that black tea undergoes. This leaves green tea extremely rich in the EGCG, and black tea almost completely void of EGCG. Green tea is also superior to black tea in the quality and quantity of other antioxidants.

What clinical studies have been done on EGCG and Parkinson’s disease?

Two large studies have looked at whether tea drinking can lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Both studies found that black tea is associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, but one of the studies found that drinking green tea had no effect (Click here and here for more on this). Now the positive effect of black tea is believed to be associated with the high level of caffeine, which is a confounding variable in these studies. Even Green tea has some caffeine in it – approximately half the levels of caffeine compared to black tea.

The levels of EGCG in these studies were not determined and we are yet to see a proper clinical trial of EGCG in Parkinson’s disease. EGCG has been clinically tested in humans (Click here for more on that), so it seems to be safe. And there is an uncompleted clinical trial of EGCG in Huntington’s disease (Click here for more) which we will be curious to see the results of.

So what does it all mean?

Number 1.

It means that if the alpha-synuclein theory of Parkinson’s disease is correct, then more research should be done on EGCG. Specifically a double-blind clinical trial looking at the efficacy of this antioxidant in slowing down the condition.

Number 2.

It means that I now drink a lot of green tea.

Usually mint flavoured (either Teapigs or Twinnings – please note: SoPD is not a paid sponsor of these products, though some free samples would be appreciated!).

It’s very nice. Have a try.


The banner for today’s post was sourced from WeightLossExperts

Monthly Research Review – February 2019

 

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 February 2019.

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

  • Basic biology
  • Disease mechanism
  • Clinical research
  • New clinical trials
  • Clinical trial news
  • Other news
  • Review articles/videos

 


So, what happened during February 2019?

In world news:

31st January – Not exactly February I know, but this is amazing: Forget everything you know about 3D printing, because now we can 3D print with light! (Click here for the research report and click here for the press release).

 

 

 

 

3rd February – Pope Francis visited Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. He is the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula.

19th February – Star Wars Lightsaber duelling was registered as an official sport in France, as part of an effort to encourage young people to engage more in sports (Click here to read more about this).

21st February – Israeli tech firm SpaceIL launched the Beresheet probe – the world’s first privately financed mission to the Moon. The company is competing in the Google Lunar X Prize, and it is hoping that the craft will land on the surface of the moon on the 12th April.

22nd February – “Wallace’s giant bee” (Megachile pluto) was the world’s largest species of bee – with a wingspan measuring more than six centimetres (2.5 inches) – until the species disappeared in 1981. An international team of scientists and conservationists have now re-discovered it in an Indonesian rainforest, giving hope that other lost species may also be found.

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

In February 2019, there were 696 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (1555 for all of 2019 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

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The “What would you do?” post

 

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.

 


Source: Fifteendesign

An email I received this week:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Why not?

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2018: Year in review

 

In this end-of-year post we review the year that was 2018.

Month-by-month we will briefly discuss some of the major pieces of research/announcement that have define the year and advanced our understanding of Parkinson’s.

The list is based on nothing more than the author’s personal opinion – apologies to any researchers who feel left out.

And in the next post we will consider what the year ahead (2019) has in store for us.

 


Source: a-star

In the 525600 minutes that made up 2018, a lot happened in the world of Parkinson’s research.

A total of 7672 research papers were published with the keyword ‘Parkinson’s’ according to the Pubmed website (this compared to 7675 for all of 2017 – this obviously represents a dismal failure for the Parkinson’s research community: the first time in quite a while that we haven’t beaten the number of research reports from the previous year!

I am of course kidding. The quantity of research reports is irrelevant. But it does make me smile that we missed the mile stone by just 3 papers!

2018 has been another amazing year for Parkinson’s research. And while I appreciate that a comment like this means little to someone living with the condition on a day-to-day, remarkable progress has been made not only in our understanding of the condition, but also in the various ways in which the research is being done and potential therapies are approaching the condition.

In this post, we will review the year that was by briefly summarising some of the major research-related events of each month in 2018.

And that journey begins with:

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The lipidomics of Parkinson’s

 

Lipids are ‘waxy’ molecules that make up a large proportion of your brain and they play very important roles in normal brain function. For a long time researchers have also been building evidence that lipids may be involved with neurodegenerative conditions as well.

Recently, new research was presented that supports this idea (in the case of Parkinson’s at least), as two research groups published data indicating that certain lipids can influence the toxicity of the Parkinson’s associated protein alpha synuclein.

One of those research groups was a biotech company called Yumanity, and they are developing drugs that target the enzymes involved with the production of the offending lipids.

In today’s post, we will look at what lipids are, what the new research suggests, and discuss some of the issues that will need to be considered in the clinical development of these lipid enzyme inhibitors.

 


Yummy. Source: Healthline

Adherence to the ‘Mediterranean diet‘ has been associated with a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s (Click here and here to read more about this), but no one has ever really explained why.

There has been the suggestion from some corners that this association may be due to the richness of monounsaturated fats in the foods generally included in this diet.

For example, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat.

What are monounsaturated fats?

Mmmm, before I answer that we need to have a broader discussion about “what is fat?“.

Fat is one of the three main macronutrients (carbohydrate and protein being the other two) that the body requires for survival.

Source: Visionpt

Fat serves as a ready source of energy for the body and can also provide insulation against cold temperatures or compression. All fats are derived from combinations of fatty acids (and also glycerol).

What are fatty acids?

A fatty acid is simply a chain of hydrocarbons terminating in a carboxyl group (having a carbonyl and hydroxyl group both linked to a carbon atom). Don’t worry too much about what that means, just understand that fatty acids are basically chains of hydrocarbons that look like this:

A chain of hydrocarbons ending in a carboxyl group (right). Source: Wikipedia

Fatty acids come in two forms:

  • Saturated
  • Unstaturated

In the case of a saturated fat, each carbon molecule in the chain of hydrocarbons is bonded to two other carbons by a single bond. Whereas in the case of a saturated fat, one or more carbon molecule in the chain of hydrocarbons is bonded to another carbon molecule by a double bond. For example:

Saturated fatty acids vs unsaturated fatty acids. Source: Medium

And unsaturated fatty acids can be further divided into:

  1. Monounsaturated fatty acids (or MUFAs) are simply fatty acids that have a single double bond in the fatty acid chain with all of the remainder carbon atoms being single-bonded.
  2. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (or PUFAs) are fatty acids that have more than one double bond.

Source: Medium

OK, but how might monounsaturated fats be involved with Parkinson’s?

That, dear reader, is the focus of numerous studies in the field of lipidomics.

What is lipidomics?

Continue reading

Thyme to look east: Baicalein

 

Recently I wrote a post about research investigating an interesting compound called Epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG – click here for that post). Several eagle-eyed readers, however, noted something interesting in the details of one of the research reports that was discussed in that post.

The study in question had used EGCG as a positive control for evaluating the ability of other compounds for their ability to inhibit the clustering of Parkinson’s-associated protein alpha synuclein.

But there was also a second positive control used in that study.

It is called baicalein.

In today’s post, we will discuss what baicalein is and what research has been done on it in the context of Parkinson’s.

 


Lake Baikal. Source: Audleytravel

Once upon a thyme, in a far away land, there was a mysterious little flowering plant.

The “far away land” was the southern parts of eastern Siberia.

And the flowering plant is Scutellaria baicalensis – which is more commonly referred to as Baikal skullcap.

What is Baikal skullcap?

Baikal skullcap is a perennial herb that is indigenous to Southern Siberia, China and Korea. For centuries, traditional Chinese medicine has used the dried roots – which is called huángqín (Chinese: 黄芩 or golden root) – for a variety of ailments.

Baikal skullcap. Source: Urbol

The plant grows to between 1-4 feet in height, with lance head-shaped leaves and blue-purple flowers. Baikal skullcap belongs to the same family of flowering plants (Lamiaceae) as thyme, basil, mint and rosemary.

For traditional Chinese medicinal use, the roots are usually collected in spring or autumn once the plant is more than 3-4 years old. They are dried and then used to treat hypertension, to reduce “fire and dampness”, and to treat prostate & breast cancers.

And one of the key constituents of Baikal skullcap (and huángqín) is a compound called baicalein.

What is baicalein?

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Monthly Research Review – November 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 November 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 November 2018?

In world news:

4th November – Kiwi Mike Lloyd finished his 10th New York marathon! Diagnosed with Parkinson’s 6 years ago, his story is truly inspiring – “To me it’s a celebration of what I can do, & what we can do as people, rather than what we can’t do”

Oh, and did I mention he’s also blind?

Click here to read more about his most recent marathon and click here to see his website.

6th November – Mining company BHP suspended all rail operations in Western Australia after a train (consisting of 4 locomotives & 268 wagons) ladened with iron ore travelled over 92km (57miles) with no driver on board. It was finally deliberately derailed by the authorities. And that’s not the only crazy story out of Australia this month – check out Knickers the giant steer!

 

9th November – Supermarket Iceland had their Christmas advert banned in the UK because it was “deemed to breach political advertising rules” (Can anyone please explain to me why? I quite liked it):

 

11th November – New Zealand space company ‘Rocket Lab‘ announced the successful orbital launch and deployment of customer satellites – their first commercial project, named ‘It’s Business Time’ – at 16:50 NZDT (03:50 UTC – Click here for the press release). Little old NZ punching above its weight yet again. The launch can be seen from 20 minutes into this video:

 

22nd November – Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that they have developed a model aircraft with no moving parts that is capable of flight. The age of ionic wind has begun.

 

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

In November 2018, there were 762 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (7172 for all of 2018 so far – we should easily beat last years total of 7644). 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

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Brain. On. Fire.

 

Inflammation is part of the immune system’s response to damage or infection. It is a very natural process that our bodies undergo when we come into harms way.

Researchers at the University of Queensland, have recently demonstrated something interesting about the inflammation associated with Parkinson’s: by inhibiting a very specific part of the inflammatory process, they can reduce the spread of Parkinson’s associated alpha synuclein pathology in models of PD.

And they have developed a drug – called MCC950 – that specifically targets that component of the inflammation process which they are now seeking to test in clinical trials.

In today’s post, we will discuss what inflammation is, review this new research, and consider what it could all mean for the Parkinson’s community.

 


Spot the unhealthy cell – exhibiting signs of stress (yellow). Source: Gettyimages

No silly preamble today – this is going to be a very long post, so we’re diving straight in:

When cells in your body are stressed or sick, they begin to release messenger proteins which inform the rest of your body that something is wrong.

When enough cells release these messenger proteins, it can cause inflammation.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a vital part of the immune system’s response to trouble. It is the body’s way of communicating to the immune system that something is wrong and activating it so that it can help deal with the situation.

By releasing the messenger proteins, injured/sick cells kick off a process that results in multiple types of immune cells entering the troubled area of the body and undertaking very specific tasks.

The inflammatory process. Source: Trainingcor

The strength of the immune response depends on the volume of the signal arising from those released messenger proteins.

And the level of messenger proteins being released partly depends on multi-protein structures called inflammasomes.

What are inflammasomes?

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Monthly Research Review – September 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 September 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 September 2018?

In world news:

September 2nd – A fire destroyed the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro –  a “catastrophic loss of artifacts”.

Source: HuffPost

September 14th – Hurricane Florence made landfall in Wrightsville Beach (North Carolina), caused extensive damage and flooding throughout in the Carolinas.

Source: WPLG

September 17th – In an effort to study the hidden physical properties of electrons, Japanese researchers built the ‘most powerful magnet on Earth’ – a 1200 Tesla, 3.2 megajoules beast. The experiment was supposed to go off with a bang, but the ‘bang’ was slightly more than expected: it blew the door off the protective chamber holding the experiment!

September 21st – after a three year journey, the first rover of the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft touched down on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. A truly remarkable achievement.

Source: NYTimes (some amazing images on this link)

September 24th – Two reports were published – one in the journal Nature Medicine and another in the journal New England Journal of Medicine – describing the case of 29-year-old Jered Chinnock (who 5 years ago could not feel or move his body from the chest down) recovering the ability of assisted walking following spinal cord stimulation and intensive physical therapy.

September 28th – A magnitude 7.5 earthquake hit the island of Sulawesi (Indonesia), causing a tsunami and terrible destruction and loss of life.

Source: Australian

 

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

In September 2018, there were 841 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (5978 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 5 pieces of Parkinson’s news

Continue reading