Synucleinopathy begets channelopathy?

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Alpha synuclein is a protein that is closely associated with Parkinson’s. It was the first gene to be associated with increased risk of developing Parkinson’s, and the alpha synuclein protein was found to be present in Lewy bodies – a characteristic feature of the Parkinson’s brain.

As a result of this association, researcher have used high levels of this protein to model Parkinson’s in cell culture and animal experiments. 

Recently, scientists have reported that high levels of alpha synuclein can cause shrinkage of motorneurons, resulting in a reduction of gut motility in mice – potentially connecting multiple features of Parkinson’s in one study.

In today’s post, we will review the results of this new study and consider what could happen next.

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Channelopathy conditions. Source: Frontiers

A reader recently emailed me to ask if Parkinson’s is a channelopathy?

It’s a good question.

What is a channelopathy?

Channelopathies are conditions caused by disruption of the function of proteins involved in ion channels or the proteins that regulate them. These diseases can be either congenital (present from birth, often resulting from a genetic mutation) or acquired (often resulting from an insult such as autoimmune attack or toxin on a particular type of ion channel – click here to read a good review on this topic).

Hang on a second, what are ion channels?

Ion channels are protein structures in membranes that allow certain elements to pass through them into (or out of) the interior of a cell.

Source: Biologydictionary

These conduits play critical roles in many processes of normal cellular life – from passing signals between cells to general cellular well being (homeostasis). Many of these channels are very selective in what they allow to pass (for example, there are calcium channels and sodium channels which only allow calcium and sodium to pass, respectively).

When components of a channel are disrupted (resulting in dysfunctional activity in that channel), it can have serious implications for cells and the organisms that they inhabit.

Can you give an example of a disease that is a channelopathy?

Spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (or SCA6) can be used as an example of a channelopathy.

Spinocerebellar ataxia are a collection of rare, genetic condition that is characterized by slowly progressive cerebellar ataxia (a lack of muscle coordination that can make speech and movement difficult) and nystagmus (involuntary, uncontrollable eye movements).

This video explains what spinocerebellar ataxia are:

SCA6 is a late onset form of spinocerebellar ataxia (typically starting after 65 years of age) – many people with SCA6 can be misdiagnosed with ALS or Parkinson’s. SCA6 is caused by mutations in CACNA1A, a gene that provides the instructions for making one part (the alpha-1 subunit) of a calcium channel called CaV2.1.

Very interesting. But how does this relate to Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “Synucleinopathy begets channelopathy?”

WPC 2019 – Day 3

 

Today’s post is a recap of Day 3 – the final day – at the World Parkinson’s Congress meeting in Kyoto, Japan.

I will highlight some of the presentations I was able to catch and try to reflect on what was an amazing meeting.

 


The final day of the WPC meeting for me started with Parkinson’s advocate Heather Kennedy‘s presentation on “Your radical new life: Creative ways to overcome our challenges”. In her talk, she spoke of the mindset that is required for tackling Parkinson’s and provided some advice on what-to-do and what-not-to-do.

And Heather was speaking from personal experience. Having been diagnosed in 2012, she has become an active advocate, supporter of Davis Phinney and Michael J Fox Foundations, and an administrator on several online sites. And she regularly speaks about different methods for overcoming the challenges of Parkinson’s:

“It is not ‘why is this happening to me?’, it is ‘what is this teaching me?”

Here is a presenation she gave at the recent Parkinson’s Eve meeting in the UK earlier this year:

Key among her pieces of advice is the need to make connections:

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The Science of Constipation

 

It is one of the most frequent non-motor features of Parkinson’s and yet it is one of the least publicly discussed.

The word ‘constipation’ is generally used to describe bowel movements that are infrequent or difficult to pass. The stool is often dry, lumpy and hard, and problematic to expel. Other symptoms can include abdominal pain, bloating, and the feeling that one has not completely passed the bowel movement.

In today’s post we look at what can cause constipation, why it may be so common in Parkinson’s, discuss what can be done to alleviate it, and look at clinical trials focused on this issue.

 


Source: Hormonehelp

As many as 1 in 5 people say they have suffered from chronic (long-term) constipation at some point in their lives.

It results in more than 2.5 million hospital and physicians visits per year in the USA.

And Americans spend more than $700 million on treatments for it annually (Source).

More importantly, constipation is considered by many researchers to be a risk factor for developing Parkinson’s, as many people in the affected community claim to have experienced constipation for long periods prior to diagnosis.

Why this is, what is being done to research it, and what can be done about constipation in Parkinson’s is the topic of today’s post. But first, let’s start with the obvious question:

What is constipation?

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Objective measures: Getting smart about pills

There has been a lot of discussion on this site (and elsewhere on the web) regarding the need for more objective systems of measuring Parkinson’s – particularly in the setting of clinical trials.

Yes, subjective reports of patient experience are important, but they can easily be biased by ‘placebo responses’.

Thus, measures that are beyond the clinical trial participants conscious control – and focused on biological outcomes – are needed. 

In today’s post, we will consider one possible approach: Smart pills. We will discuss what they are, how they work, and how they could be applied to Parkinson’s research.


Source: Chicagotribune

In order to encourage a growing discussion regarding objective measures of Parkinson’s (and to follow up on previous rants – Click here and here for examples), I have decided to regularly (once a month) highlight new technologies that could provide the sort of unbiased methods of data collection that are required for assessing whether a treatment is having an impact on Parkinson’s.

Today, we will look at smart pills.

What is a smart pill?

Continue reading “Objective measures: Getting smart about pills”