Tagged: alpha synuclein

TRIMming aggregates

 

Novel methods for treating neurodegenerative conditions are being proposed on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis.

Recently researchers from the University of Cambridge have presented an intriguing new method of removing proteins from inside of cells which involves small proteins called antibodies.

Antibodies are an important part of the immune systems response to infection. But their function usually only applies to objects floating around outside of cells. 

In today’s post, we will look at what antibodies are, explain how this new system works, and discuss some of the issues we face with taking this new technique forward.


A brain cell from a person with Alzheimer’s. The red tangles in the yellow cell body are toxic misfolded “TAU” proteins next to the cell’s green nucleus. Source: NPR

Here at the SoPD, we often talk about the clustering (or aggregation) of proteins.

Densely packed aggregates of a protein are a common feature of many neurodegenerative conditions, including Parkinson’s.

In fact, the aggregation of a protein called alpha synuclein are one of the cardinal features of the Parkinsonian brain.

Lewy_neurites_alpha_synuclein

Aggregated alpha synuclein protein in the Parkinsonian brain (stained in brown). Source: Wikimedia

Researchers have long been devising new ways of trying to reduce the amount of alpha synuclein collecting in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s.

In most cases, their efforts have focused on utilising the cell’s own waste disposal systems.

How do cells dispose of waste?

There are two major pathways by which the cells in your body degrade and remove rubbish:

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Wanted: EEF2K inhibitors

Nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (or NRF2) is a protein in each of your cells that plays a major role in regulating resistance to stress. As a result of this function, NRF2 is also the target of a lot of research focused on neuroprotection.

A group of researchers from the University of British Columbia have recently published interesting findings that point towards to a biological pathway that could help us to better harness the beneficial effects of NRF2 in Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will discuss what NRF2 is, what the new research suggests, and how we could potentially make use of this new information.


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Rusting iron. Source: Thoughtco

In his book ‘A Red Herring Without Mustard‘, author Alan Bradley wrote:

Oxidation nibbles more slowly – more delicately, like a tortoise – at the world around us, without a flame, we call it rust and we sometimes scarcely notice as it goes about its business consuming everything from hairpins to whole civilizations

And he was right on the money.

Oxidation is the loss of electrons from a molecule, which in turn destabilises that particular molecule. It is a process that is going on all around us – even within us.

Iron rusting is the example that is usually used to explain oxidation. Rust is the oxidation of iron – in the presence of oxygen and water, iron molecules will lose electrons over time. And given enough time, this results in the complete break down of objects made of iron.

The combustion process of fire is another example, albeit a very rapid form of oxidation.

Oxidation is one half of a process called Redox – the other half being reduction (which involves the gaining of electrons).

The redox process. Source: Academic

Here is a video that explains the redox process:

Now it is important to understand, that oxidation also occurs in biology.

Molecules in your body go through the same process of losing electrons and becoming unstable. This chemical reaction leads to the production of what we call free radicals, which can then go on to damage cells.

What is a free radical?

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A tiny dot with an anti-Parkinson’s plot

Graphene is widely being believed to be one of the building blocks of the future. This revolutionary 2D material is being considered for all kinds of applications, including those of a medicinal nature.

This week researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and Seoul National University have published a report suggesting that graphene may also have applications for Parkinson’s.

The researchers found that exposing the Parkinson’s-associated protein, alpha synuclein, to graphene quantum dots not only prevented the protein from aggregating together into its toxic form, but also destroyed the mature toxic form of it.

A nano-sized silver bullet?

In today’s post, we will look at what graphene quantum dots are, review the new Parkinson’s-related results, and discuss what happens next for this new technology.


Prof Andre Geim and Prof Konstantin Novoselov. Source: Aerogelgraphene

They called them ‘Friday night experiments’.

Each week, two research scientists at the University of Manchester (UK) named Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov held sessions where they would conduct experiments that had little or nothing to do with their actual research.

These activities were simply an exercise in genuine curiosity.

And on one particular Friday in 2004, the two scientists conducted one of the simplest experiments that they had ever attempted – but it was one which would change the world: They took some sticky tape and applied it to a lump of graphite.

What is graphite?

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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?

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The Mannitol results

Last week the first results of an ambitious project are being shared with the Parkinson’s community.

Clinicrowd is a “crowd sourcing platform exploring disease treatments that Pharma companies have no interest to investigate or promote”. Their initial focus was Parkinson’s (though they now have additional projects for other medical conditions), and their first experimental treatment for Parkinson’s was the sweetener ‘mannitol’.

The results provide some interesting insights into the properties of mannitol and into crowd sourced projects.

In today’s post, we will discuss what mannitol is, why it is interesting, outline the Clinicrowd project, and review the results of the mannitol study.


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Mannitol. Source: Qualifirst

Without a shadow of doubt, one of the most popular topics searched for on this website is ‘mannitol’.

In 2017, the second most visited page on the site (behind only the main/home page) was a post called “Update – Mannitol and Parkinson’s“. And as if to put an exclamation point on the matter, the fourth most visited page was “Manna from heaven? Mannitol and Parkinson’s

Understand though, that both of these posts were actually written in 2016!

Throughout 2017-18, not a week has gone by without someone contacting me to ask about mannitol and the ‘CliniCrowd‘ project.

Thus, it brings me great pleasure to sit down tonight and write this post.

What is mannitol?

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A vaccine for Parkinson’s – the AFFiRiS update

This week Austrian biotech firm, AFFiRiS AG, made an announcement regarding their experimental immunotherapy/’vaccine’ approach for Parkinson’s.

In their press release, the company provided the results of a long-term Phase I clinical trial testing the tolerability and safety of their treatment AFFITOPE® PD01A.

The treatment was found to be safe and well-tolerated in people with Parkinson’s. But there was one sentence which was particularly intriguing in the press release regarding clinical symptoms.

In today’s post, we will discuss what is meant by ‘immunotherapy’, outline what this particular clinical trial involved, review the results, and explore what this 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

Clinical trial results from Austria suggest that a new immunotherapy approach in people with Parkinson’s is both safe and well tolerated over long periods of time.

What is immunotherapy?

Continue reading

I’ll have the fish please

We have previously discussed the importance of the right foods for people with Parkinson’s on this blog – Click here for a good example.

Recently, new data from researchers in Sweden points towards the benefits of a specific component of fish in particular.

It is a protein called β-parvalbumin, which has some very interesting properties.

In today’s post, we discuss what beta-parvalbumin is, review the new research findings, and consider how this new information could be applied to Parkinson’s.


A very old jaw bone. Source: Phys

In 2003, researchers found 34 bone fragments belonging to a single individual in a cave near Tianyuan, close to Beijing (China).

But it was not the beginning of a potential murder investigation.

No, no.

This was the start of something far more interesting.

Naming the individual “Tianyuan man”, the researchers have subsequently found that “many present-day Asians and Native Americans” are genetically related to this individual. His bones represented one of the oldest set of modern human remains ever found in the eastern Eurasia region.

Tianyuan caves. Source: Sciencemag

But beyond the enormous family tree, when researchers further explored specific details about his jaw bone (or lower mandible as it is called) they found something else that was very interesting about Tianyuan man:


Title: Stable isotope dietary analysis of the Tianyuan 1 early modern human.
Authors: Hu Y, Shang H, Tong H, Nehlich O, Liu W, Zhao C, Yu J, Wang C, Trinkaus E, Richards MP.
Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jul 7;106(27):10971-4.
PMID: 19581579                     (This research article is OPEN ACCESS if you would like to read it)

In this study, the investigators analysed the carbon and nitrogen isotopes found within bone collagen samples taken from the jaw bone of Tianyuan man. In humans, the carbon and nitrogen isotope values indicate the sources of dietary protein over many years of life.

The researchers found that a substantial portion of Tianyuan man’s diet 40,000 years ago came from freshwater fish.

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

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When SERCA goes berserker

In a recent SoPD post, we discussed the importance of calcium and looked at how it interacts with the Parkinson’s-associated protein alpha synuclein, affecting the function and clustering of that protein.

During the writing of that post, another interesting research report was published on the same topic of calcium and alpha synuclein. It involved a different aspect of biology in the cell – a structure called the endoplasmic reticulum – but the findings of that study could also explain some aspects of Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will review the new research report, consider the biology behind the findings and how it could relate to Parkinson’s, and discuss how this new information could be used.


The original berserker. Source: Wikipedia

I can remember my father often saying “If you kids don’t be quiet, I’ll go berserk!”

Growing up, I never questioned the meaning of the word ‘berserk‘.

I simply took it as defining the state of mindless madness that my dad could potentially enter if we – his off-spring – pushed him a wee bit too far (and for the record, Dad actually ‘going berserk’ was a very rare event).

My father. But only on the odd occasion. Source: Screenrant

But now as I find myself repeating these same words to my own off-spring, I am left wondering what on Earth it actually means?

What is ‘berserk‘?

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On the importance of Calcium

Recently researcher from the University of Cambridge reported that an imbalance in calcium and the Parkinson’s-associated protein alpha synuclein can cause the clustering of synaptic vesicles.

What does this mean? And should we reduce our calcium intake as a result?

In today’s post, we will review the research report, consider the biology behind the findings and how it could relate to Parkinson’s, and discuss what can or should be done.


Me and Brie. Source: Wikipedia

When I turned 25, I realised that my body no longer accepted cheese.

This was a very serious problem.

You see, I still really liked cheese.

A bottle of red wine, a baguette and a chunk of brie – is there any better combination in life?

So obviously my body and I had a falling out. And yes, it got ugly. I wanted things to keep going the way they had always been, so I tried to make things interesting with new and exotic kinds of cheeses, which my body didn’t want to know about it. It rejected all of my efforts. And after a while, I gradually started resenting my body for not letting me be who I was.

We sought help. We tried interventions. But sadly, nothing worked.

And then things got really bad: My body decided that it didn’t have room in its life for yogurt, milk or even ice cream anymore (not even ice cream!!!). Basically no dairy what so ever.

There’s something’s missing in my life. Source: Morellisices

OMG. How did you survive without ice cream?

Well, I’ll tell ye – it’s been rough.

All silliness aside though, here is what I know: It is actually very common to develop a lactase deficiency as we get older – lactase being the enzyme responsible for the digestion of whole milk. In fact, about 65% of the global population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy (Source: NIH). I am not lactose intolerant (one of the few tests that I actually aced in my life), but I do have trouble digesting a particular component of dairy products – which can result in discomfort and socially embarrassing situations (one day over a drink I’ll tell you the ‘cheese fondue story’). Curiously, that mystery ingredient is also present in products that have no dairy (such as mayonnaise – it absolutely kills me).

But spare me your tears, if one is forced to drop a particular food group, dairy is not too bad (if I am ever forced to give up wine, I swear I’ll go postal).

My biggest concern when I dropped dairy, however, was “where was I going to get my daily requirements of calcium?“.

Understand that calcium is really rather important.

Why is calcium important?

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Monthly Research Review – April 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 April 2018.

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


So, what happened during April 2018?

In world news:

  • April 4–15th – The 2018 Commonwealth Games were held in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (New Zealand came 5th in the medals tally… not bragging, just saying).

Source: Vimeo

  • April 27th – Kim Jong-un crosses into South Korea to meet with President Moon Jae-in, becoming the first North Korean leader to cross the Demilitarised Zone since its creation in 1953. In initial small steps towards reconciliation, South Korea said it would remove loudspeakers that blare propaganda across the border, while North Korea said it would shift its clocks to align with its southern neighbour.

BFFs? Source: QZ

Source: Plus

  • And finally the city of Trier in Germany is already struggling to keep up with demand for ‘0-euro’ notes, bearing the face of its most famous son and communism’s creator Karl Marx. Sold for 3 euros each, the notes are part of celebrations for his 200th birthday (5th May 1818).

You get what you pay for. Source: DDR

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

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