The radiologist at a Parkinson’s conference

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In 2015, a woman with dementia was sitting in hospice care, wheelchair-bound and largely non-communicative. As part of a research project, she was given repeated computed tomography (CT) scans of her brain.

The effect of this seemingly harmless treatment was rather astonishing, and it has led to more research exploring the effect of low dose ionizing radiation on neurodegenerative conditions.

Including Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will discuss what low dose ionizing radiation is, what research has been conducted thus far, and what could be happening in the brain to explain the effect.

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Source: Linkedin

During the lunch break of a recent research conference and desiring some ‘alone time’, I approached a table toward the back of the conference center.

There was only one other inhabitant of this oasis of solitude and after asking if they minded if I sat there (“Please” they gestured), I sat down. A moment or two later, a polite conversation was started. It was innocent enough (“Enjoying the conference?“) but this quickly shifted to specifics (Me asking “So what area of the research is of most interest to you?“).

And this was where the rabbit hole began.

You see, my table companion explained that they had trained as a radiologist – this is a group of doctors that specialise in diagnosing and treating injuries/diseases using medical imaging.

And upon being told their occupation, I asked if they were interested in the research exploring diagnostic imaging for Parkinson’s.

Their answer was: “Well, yes, but I’m more interested in using the imaging therapeutically“.

To which, my facial expression must have shifted towards something like:

My table companion was amused by the expression on my face and added that they lived locally and they were curious about the research being done on Parkinson’s. But more specifically, they were interested to know if anyone was investigating low-dose ionizing radiation as a potential therapeutic treatment.

My facial confusion must have become somewhat more exaggerated at that point, and so they gave me the background history and context to their reason for interest.

It was a fascinating story.

What did they say?

Continue reading “The radiologist at a Parkinson’s conference”

A nod to immunomod with fingolimod

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In general, your immune system does a truly amazing job of keeping you healthy and the dangerous pathogenic world around us at bay.

Trillions of cells constantly monitoring for viruses and other illness-causing agents, and ruthlessly disposing of any that they actually find. But sometimes your immune system can get a little carried away with this task and researchers have developed medications that turn down the volume of immune system activity.

Recently, researchers have reported new data that points towards a particular class of immune cells (lymphocytes) in Parkinson’s, and they have also identified a pathway that could be targeted therapeutically.

In today’s post, we will discuss what lymphocytes are and consider new data highlighting an immunomodulation treatment avenue that could be explored in Parkinson’s.

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Your hematopoietic system. Source: Wikipedia

The process of hematopoiesis (or blood formation) is absolutely fascinating.

Seriously.

You start off with a single, multi-potential hematopoietic stem cell. This is called a hemocytoblast (it’s the big cell in middle of the image below):

A hemocytoblast. Source: Pinterest

Given enough time, this single cell will give rise to an entire blood system, made up of many of different types of cells (as displayed in the schematic above) with very specific functions that are required for us to live normal lives.

It is a remarkable achievement of biology.

Understand that at any moment in time your blood system will contain 20-30 trillion cells (in the average human body). And as the image near the top of the post suggests, there are quite a few branches of potential cell types that these blood stem cells can generate.

Very interesting, but what does this have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “A nod to immunomod with fingolimod”

Monthly Research Review – September 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 September 2022.

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

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So, what happened during September 2022?

In world news:

September 6 – Liz Truss was appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after winning the July–September 2022 Conservative Party leadership election

September 8 – Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96. Her son Charles III succeeded her as King.

 

16th September – Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman died in an Iranian hospital days after being detained by the Government’s Guidance Patrol (or “morality police” ) for allegedly not complying with the country’s hijab regulations

 

26th September – NASA’s DART crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos and changed its course in a first test of potential planetary defense (do a google search for “Nasa’s Dart” and watch what happens – very clever!).

 

30th September – Russian President Vladimir Putin signs treaties absorbing the occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into the Russian Federation ( …and nobody paid attention)

 

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

In September 2022, there were 888 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (8884 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 6 pieces of Parkinson’s news

Continue reading “Monthly Research Review – September 2022”

The mystery of melanoma

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For a long time, researchers have recognised that there is an association between melanoma and Parkinson’s – with individuals affected by either condition being at higher risk of developing the other. The underlying biology of this connection has remained a mystery.

Recently, new data has pointed toward an unlikely bridge between the two, in the form of DOPA – a key ingredient in the production of the chemical dopamine.

In today’s post, we will discuss what melanoma is, explore the connections with Parkinson’s, and review the new research on DOPA.

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Godzone (Noun). Source: Mindfood

Growing up in New Zealand, the author of this blog developed a healthy fear of the dangers of melanoma at a very young age.

Unfortunately, New Zealand has one of the highest age-standardised incidence rates of melanoma in the world. It occurs in approximately 50 people per 100,000 of the general population, each year (it is one of many things we beat Australia at, their incidences is only 48 per 100,000).

By contrast, in the US the incidence is just 21.8 per 100,000 (Source).

And despite being less common than other types of skin cancer, in New Zealand melanoma accounts for 80% of skin cancer-related deaths (Source).

Wow! Really?

Really, really.

Fact: Melanoma is the third most common cancer in men and women in New Zealand (Source in the UK and US, it is 5th).

But why the high incidence?

Ultraviolet radiation is the main reason. New Zealand and Australia have ~40% higher levels of ultraviolet radiation than the northern hemisphere. That whole ozone hole thing above Antarctica – yep, it’s still a thing (source).

Combine that unfortunate circumstance with the fact that both countries have a high proportion of antipodeans with lighter pigmented skin making up their populations – who (I can confirm) are more susceptible to sunburn – and you have a perfect recipe for melanoma.

I can remember as a kid returning home from the beach looking like a boiled lobster… on a regular basis.

An ACDC fan. Source: Runt

I really hate to say it, but New Zealand isn’t quite perfect.

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

Continue reading “The mystery of melanoma”

PWP: Parrots with Parkinson’s?

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Lewy bodies are densely packed aggregates of proteins and lipids that can be found in some neurons in the brain of many people with Parkinson’s. They have long been considered a cardinal feature of the Parkinsonian brain.

To date, humans are the only species that have displayed evidence of Lewy bodies.

But very recently new data has suggested that Lewy body-like pathology might not be so human-specific.

In today’s post, we will discuss what are Lewy bodies are and explore the new research report suggesting that they might not be unique to humans. 

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Source: Theanimalfacts

The yellow-crowned parrot are remarkably similar to humans.

They have a lifespan of 60 to 80 years (in captivity; 20 to 30 years in the wild), and they are monogamous in their pairing, with pairs often remaining together for life. And they are rather vocal (but curiously they don’t have vocal cords).

Ok, their courtship is slightly different to humans (it involves lots of bowing, drooping, flicking of wings, raising of feet, and dilating of pupils) and chocolate is extremely poisonous to them.

But by and large, they are remarkably similar to us (at least as far as birds go).

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

Continue reading “PWP: Parrots with Parkinson’s?”

Monthly Research Review – August 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 August 2022.

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

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So, what happened during August 2022?

In world news:

August 1st – Patrick, a 4 year old pony became the mayor of the Devonshire village of Cockington – a village frequented by a teenage Agatha Christie – after more than 200 people signing an online petition (Click here to read more about this).

 

4th August – China initiated its largest ever military exercise around Taiwan, an event that coincided with a controversial visit to the island nation by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking U.S official to visit Taiwan since the 1990s.

 

15th August – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi signed a decree to enforce the country’s hijab and chastity law. The new law resulted in a new list of restrictions on how women can dress and “women who publish their pictures without a hijab on the Internet will be deprived of some social rights for six months to one year” (Source).

 

18th August – The editing of multiple genes in soybean by researchers has been shown to improve photosynthesis and boost yields by 20% (Click here to read more about this).

 

31st August – Sincarnate’s AI (“Midjourney“)-generated work “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” took first place in the digital category at the Colorado State Fair… and the other artists were not impressed (“We’re watching the death of artistry unfold before our eyes” – 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 August 2022, there were 863 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (7996 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 6 pieces of Parkinson’s news

Continue reading “Monthly Research Review – August 2022”

Parkinsonism type 1 through infinity

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Many researchers argue that there is no such thing as “Parkinson’s” (a singular disease that has a specific causal event and similar outcome).

They also suggest that holding on to this idea is hurting our ability to develop better therapies to treat the condition.

In today’s post, we will explore this idea further and look at a recent review article addressing it.

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Source: Azquotes

Nosology is the branch of medical science that deals with the classification of diseases.

The goal of nosology is to have “a description whose primary purpose is enabling a diagnostic label to be put on the situation” (Source).

Note here the use of the word ‘situation‘, instead of ‘disease‘ in the sentence above. Much of what doctors and clinicians face in medicine are not specific diseases. Rather, they are situations (or conditions) that need to be treated.

Think of stroke. It “is a medical condition in which poor blood flow to the brain causes cell death” (Source). Certain diseases (for example, diabetes or heart disease) may result in an individual having a stroke, but the stroke itself is typically a very individual condition/situation. And this is what clinicians attempt to treat.

We often think of diseases as being defined by a specific cause. Like the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) viral infection that leads to COVID-19. But even here the situation that doctors face can vary widely – some infected people die, while others are completely asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

Where are you going with this? You don’t think Parkinson’s is a ‘disease’?

Continue reading “Parkinsonism type 1 through infinity”

The Rise of the Sartans?

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Drug repurposing represents a more rapid way of bringing new treatments to the public than the traditional novel drug development route. It involves clinically testing therapies in new conditions for which they are not currently approved.

Researchers conduct large drug screening studies to identify agents that could be repurposed and basic science experiments can also provide data to support evaluating a particular class of drug in new medical conditions.

Recently, accumulating evidence has pointed towards a class of drugs called sartans as potential candidates for repurposing for Parkinson’s. 

In today’s post, we will discuss what sartans are and review some of new studies suggesting the case for support.

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The sartan family photo. Source: MDPI

The “Sartans” sound like an ancient Greek tribe or Scottish clan.

Like a formidable horde of Viking brigands bearing down on some hapless village that is unaware it is about to be pillaged. One can imagine someone in said village suddenly seeing something out of the ordinary, realizes the impending disaster, and screaming “the sartans are coming! The sartans are coming!

Source: Lifeinnorway

But the reality is something else entirely.

Sartans are in fact a class of drugs that are widely used for the treatment of hypertension (that is: high blood pressure). They are also administered to patients with certain heart or kidney diseases. The drugs work by blocking the function of a hormone.

That hormone is called angiotensin II.

Angiotensin II has a bad habit of causing your blood vessels (the tubes that transport blood around your body) to narrow. This action can increase your blood pressure and force your heart to work harder. Not a good situation in terms of longevity.

And before we go any further it has to be said, like any marauding tribe, the sartans need to be treated with respect – they are powerful drugs and can do worse than simply making people feel dizzy if they lower the blood pressure too much.

Good to know. But what do sartans have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “The Rise of the Sartans?”

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”