Interfering with interferons

 

New data from researchers in Taiwan has intriguing implications for our understanding of the development of Parkinson’s.

An analysis of the enormous national medical database pointed towards towards hepatitis C viral infections as a risk factor for developing Parkinson’s.

But here is the twist in the tale: Interferon-based antiviral therapy reduces that risk back to normal.

In today’s post, we will review the new research, discuss what interferons are, explore what other research has been conducted on interferons in the context of Parkinson’s, and consider the implications of this new research for Parkinson’s.

 


Source: Phys

We have learnt a great deal about Parkinson’s over the last few years via the use of “big data”.

Whether it be the analysis of vast pools of genetic information collected from tens of thousands of individuals with the condition, to analysing massive datasets of longitudinal medical information, these investigations has open new avenues of research and investigation.

For example, “big data” studies have demonstrated that those who smoke cigarettes and drink coffee have a reduced chance of developing Parkinson’s (click here to read a previous SoPD post on this topic). ‘Big data studies have also pointed towards novel therapeutic approaches (click here for a previous SoPD post highighting an example).

Recently, an analysis of medical records from Taiwan have shed new light on another potential influencer of Parkinson’s risk: Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

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Monthly Research Review – August 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 August 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 August 2019?

In world news:

7th August – Scientists discovered that staring at seagulls can stop them from stealing food (Click here to read more about this – no, really, this is serious science).

14th August – Swedish climate activist, 16 year old Greta Thunberg set sail across the Atlantic ocean in a zero-carbon yacht – almost one year after she started her school strike for the climate protest on 20 August – to attend various meetings in the US (Click here to read more about this).

23rd August – At the G7 meeting, Western countries (who have utterly deforested themselves in the name of commerce) decried the burning of the Amazon rain forest (which does NOT contain 20% of the world’s oxygen – click here to read more about that), rather than simply proposing to re-foresting themselves (Click here to read more about this).

[Sorry to get political, but having returned from 12 days off the grid, I am shocked and saddened by the level of nonsensical noise upon reconnecting]

27th August – American rocket company SpaceX conducted a successful flight of their “Starhopper” craft. Starhopper is an early test prototype of SpaceX’s Mars-colonizing Starship spacecraft (Click here to read more about this)

28th August – Greta arrived in New York (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 2019, there were 924 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (5688 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 5 pieces of Parkinson’s news

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A re-think of PINK

 

The immune system is our main line of defense against a world full of potentially dangerous disease causing agents. It is a complicated beast that does a fantastic job of keeping us safe and well.

Recently, however, there was an interesting study suggesting that a genetic risk factor for Parkinson’s may be associated with an over-reaction from the immune system in response to infection from a common human food poisoning bug.

Specifically, mice who were missing the gene PINK1 literally had an ‘autoimmune reaction’ to the infection – that is the immune system began attacking healthy cells of the body – while normal mice (with intact PINK1 genes) recovered from the infection and went about their business.

In today’s post, we will explore this new research and discuss why we may need to rethink PINK.

 


Source: Huffington Post

I have had a guts full of all this gut research being published about Parkinson’s.

[NOTE 1.: For the unitiated: A “guts full” – Adjective, Kiwi colloquialism. Meaning ‘Had enough of’, ‘fed up of’, ‘endured to the point of tolerance’]

[NOTE 2.: The author of this blog is a Kiwi]

I really can’t stomach anymore of it.

And my gut feeling suggests that there is only more to come. It would be nice though, to have something else… something different to digest.

So what is today’s post all about?

Gut research of course.

But this gut research has a REALLY interesting twist.

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Viva Las Vagus

 

Increasing preclinical evidence is being presented that suggests the gastrointestinal system can play a role in models of Parkinson’s. In addition, there is mounting epidemiological data indicating that the gut can have some kind of influence in people with the condition.

Recently, a new paper was published which explores the involvement of the vagus nerve. This is the bundle of nerves connecting the gut to the brain.

Specifically, the researchers cut the vagus nerve in mice who had the Parkinson’s associated protein alpha synuclein introduced to their guts, and they found that these mice did not develop the characteristics of Parkinson’s, while those mice with intact vagus nerves did.

In today’s post, we will discuss this new report, review some of the additional preclinical and epidemiological data, and try to understand what it all means for our understanding of Parkinson’s.

 


 

Source: Originubud

Today’s post is about the origin of things. Specifically, Parkinson’s.

But we will begins with words: Consider for a moment the title of this post: Viva las vagus.

When most people read of the word ‘Viva‘, they think of it as a call to cheer or applaud somthing (for example: “Vive la France!” or “Viva las Vegas”), but the origin of the word has a slightly different meaning.

Viva is a shortening of the Latin term viva voce, meaning “live voice”. And in this context it refers to an oral examination – typically for an academic qualification. For example, a European PhD examination is referred to as “viva” and it is an oral denfense (sometimes public – eek!) of the thesis.

A PhD viva examination. Source: Guardian

‘Las’ is simply the Spanish word for ‘the’. And the word ‘vagus’ originates from the Latin, meaning ‘wandering, uncertain’.

Thus, the title of today’s post could – in effect – be “an examination of the uncertain”.

In anatomy and medicine the word, Vagus also refers to an important part of our nervous system.

Which is?

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When Bluerock became Bayer

 

Cell replacement therapy is a key component of any “cure” for Parkinson’s – replacing the cells that have been lost over the course of the condition.

Cell transplantation of dopamine neurons has a long track record of both preclinical and clinical development and represents the most developed of the cell replacement approaches.

Two weeks ago, the biotech firm BlueRock Therapeutics announced an agreement under which the pharmaceutical company Bayer AG would fully acquire the company.

In today’s post we will discuss why this is major news for the Parkinson’s community and an important development for the field of cell replacement therapy.

 


Source: Wikipedia

On the 8th August, Bayer AG and BlueRock Therapeutics announced an agreement under which Bayer will “fully acquire BlueRock Therapeutics, a privately held US-headquartered biotechnology company focused on developing engineered cell therapies in the fields of neurology, cardiology and immunology, using a proprietary induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform” (Source).

What is BlueRock Therapeutics?

BlueRock is a biotech firm that was foundered in 2016 as a joint venture between the investment firm Versant Ventures and Leaps by Bayer (with US$225 Million in Series A Financing).

Versant Ventures is a leading venture capital firm that specializes in investing “in game changing biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other life science opportunities”. Leaps by Bayer is an effort by the Pharmaceutical company Bayer at “spearheading a movement to make paradigm-shifting advances in the life sciences – targeting the breakthroughs that could fundamentally change the world for the better”.

The news on the 8th August means Bayer will acquire the remaining stake for approximately US$240 million in cash (to be paid upfront) and an additional US$360 million which will be payable upon the achievement of certain pre-defined development milestones.

Given that Bayer currently holds 40.8% stake in BlueRock Therapeutics, this announcement values the company at approximately US$1 billion.

Interesting, but what exactly does BlueRock do?

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Man’s best friend

 

Recently it has been determined that many people with Parkinson’s have a distinct smell. It is a subtle odour that only some individuals with a very sensitive sense of smell can detect (Click here to read a previous SoPD post on this topic).

This curious discovery has given rise to a number of interesting research programmes which are trying to determine the underlying biology of the odour and how this knowledge could be useful in early detection of the condition and in our understanding of the disease.

In addition, there has been efforts to train dogs to detect the smell of Parkinson’s, and recently I was invited to visit a research centre that is teaching dogs to differentiate between odours, and identify the odour from people with Parkinson’s. It was a wonderful experience.

In today’s post, we will look at what the Medical Detection Dogs does and what implications their research could have for Parkinson’s.

 


Source: MDD

In my role of Deputy Director at the Cure Parkinson’s Trust I get invited to visit many interesting research efforts associated with Parkinson’s.

But recently there was one visit that I was particularly looking forward to.

A couple of weeks ago I drove up to Milton Keynes here in the UK and visited a charity called Medical Detection Dogs.

What do they do?

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Monthly Research Review – July 2019

EDITIORIAL NOTE: Apologies to readers for the lack of content on the SoPD website this month. At the Cure Parkinson’s Trust, we have been preparing dossiers for the Linked Clinical Trials meeting in August. I will explain this process and the initiative in a future post, but for now just understand that the preparation is a 7 days/week, 9am-2am marathon task – which has been left little time (or energy) for the SoPD.

In addition, I will be completely off the grid from the 1st August for 12 days, so expect further radio silence. No laptop. No phone (how will I survive?!?!). After that, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled content (and a lot of catching up on recent research).

Kind regards, Simon

 

 

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 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 July2019?

In world news:

1st-14th Juy – Wimbledon!

16th and 17th July – A partial lunar eclipse occurred. The Moon was covered about 65% by the Earth’s umbral shadow at maximum eclipse. This was the last umbral lunar eclipse until May 2021.

19th July – A week after cricketer Ben Stokes led England to beat New Zealand in an epic world cup final, some Kiwis nominated him for the New Zealander of the year award. Technically it works: He was born in NZ and lived there until he was 12, he apparently has Maori blood, and his parents still live there in NZ. Soooo… (Click here to read more about this).

31st July – concerns regarding the latest Ebola outbreak as the World Health Organization confirms a second person has died of the disease in Goma – a major transit hub in Democratic Republic of Congo (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 2019, there were 782 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (5089 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

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“Transdiagnostic” clusters

 

“In current models of neurodegeneration, individual diseases are defined by the presence of one or two pathogenic protein species. Yet, it is the rule rather than the exception that a patient meets criteria for more than one disease”

These are the first lines of a manuscript on the preprint sharing webiste BioRxiv, which analysed the co-occurance of biological markers of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or other neurodegenerative conditions across 18 brain regions in 1389 postmortem brain from people who passed away with a neurodegenerative condition.

The results are interesting.

In today’s post, we will discuss what this study did, what is meant by “transdiagnostic disease clusters”, and consider what could they mean for our understanding of Parkinson’s… and heck, neurodegenerative conditions in general.

 


Malcolm Gladwell. Source: Masterclass

I am a fan of Malcolm Gadwell (not an endorsement, this is just me sharing).

He has a great way of looking at a situation from a completely different angle, finding things that no one else sees, and then writing about it in a clever, easy to read manner. Having read most of his books, I was rather pleased to learn that he has a podcast – Revisionist History.

And it’s good.

Oh boy, it’s good.

The first episodes of the most recent series of the podcast have helped to raise my fragile self esteem, because I am definitely a tortoise (just listen to the first two episodes of season 4 and you’ll understand).

Oh, and Mr Gladwell, if you ever read this – in the next series of the podcast, please have a look at the dysfunctional way we clinically test new therapies in medicine – click here to read a previous SoPD rant on this topic. Thanks!

What does Malcolm Gladwell have to do with Parkinson’s?

It all comes back to that idea of looking at a situation from a completely different angle.

What do you mean?

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Guten tag! MODAG

 

Last week the German biotech firm MODAG announced that they had secure €12M in series A funding from various venture capital investors.

The company is going to use those funds to clinically develop their lead compound – Anle138b – in the neurodegenerative condition, Multiple Systems Atrophy (or MSA). 

In today’s post, we will discuss how Anle138b works, what Multiple Systems Atrophy is, and how this news could be good for the Parkinson’s community.

 


Stealth mode. Source: Hackernoon

Last week a small biotech firm in Germany came out of ‘stealth mode’.

What is stealth mode?

According to wikipedia, “in business, stealth mode is a company’s temporary state of secretiveness, usually undertaken to avoid alerting competitors to a pending product launch or other business initiative”.

After years of developing a novel drug, the German company emerged from stealth mode with €12M in series A funding, which will be used to clinically test their new treatment.

The company’s name is MODAG.

And what is MODAG planning to do now they are out of “stealth mode”?

They are planning to clinically test their lead compound which is called Anle138b.

The initial Phase I safety test will be conducted in healthy individuals, but then they will turn their attention to individuals with multiple systems atrophy.

What is Multiple System Atrophy?

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Monthly Research Review – June 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 June 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 June 2019?

In world news:

7th June – British Prime Minister Theresa May resigned as leader of the Conservative Party… and then,… well, as if the BREXIT situation couldn’t get any worse…

9th June – The second reading on a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong led to hundreds of thousands of people marching in protest.

(Photo:HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)

14th June – NASA released a photo of a curious chevron shaped plateau on the surface of Mars which got Star Trek fans excited (Click here to read more about this).

21st June – A 2018 research report got a lot of folks excited when the BBC ran an article on how technology is changing our bodies. The article suggested that millenials are growing horns out of the back of their heads due to cell phone use. Needless to say, there are now concerns about the validity of the original results (Click here to read more about this).

22nd June – “Scamp the Tramp” was declared the winner of the 2019 ugliest dog contest (Click here to learn more about this).

 

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

In June 2019, there were 948 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (4408 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 10 pieces of Parkinson’s news

(June is usually a quiet month – 2019 seems to be an exception)

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