Recently researchers have proposed an interesting idea for why Parkinson’s is a distinctly human condition: There are parts of our brains that have not kept up with evolution, and as we live longer those areas become strained which ultimately results in the features of Parkinson’s.
It’s a really interesting idea – one which could have major implications.
In today’s post, we will review the new proposal and consider how we could use it in our approach to therapeutic interventions.
2020 Tesla Roadster. Source: Motortrend
By nature and design, I am not a car person.
If I can actually fit in the car (I am rather tall) and it gets me from A to B, it’s a great car. I don’t really care what it looks like, because I usually look ridiculous in the more sporty versions (my knees up around my ears…). As long as it gets from A to B, I’m happy.
Having said that, I do appreciate the technological advancements that are being made by companies like Tesla (I mean seriously, their Roadster – pictured above – is an electric car that does 0-60 mph in 1.9-seconds, quarter-mile in less than 9-second, a 250-plus-mph top speed, and an all-electric range of 620-mile! All of those statistics are incredible!).
It is amazing the evolutionary process that automobiles have gone through.
The first petrol engine-propelled car invented by Karl Benz. Source: Oxfordsurfaces
Every aspect of these vehicles has changed over time. From the wheels to the engine and from petrol to electric based cars, each component has been adapted across the decades to keep up with the needs of its environment.
Researchers are now wondering if the same can be said for our brains. And just recently some scientists have questioned whether some evolutionary design faults could explain why humans develop Parkinson’s.
What?!? What do you mean?
Each year King’s College London holds the Edmond J. Safra Memorial Lecture. It is a public event – exploring cutting-edge research on Parkinson’s – held in honour of the late philanthropist and financier, Mr Edmond J Safra, .
I was lucky enough to attend this year’s event (entitled A vision of tomorrow: How can technology improve diagnosis and treatment for Parkinson’s patients?). It highlighted the fantastic research being carried out by Professor Marios Politis and his team.
During the Q&A session of the event though, a question was asked from the audience regarding what the evolutionary advantage of Parkinson’s might be. The question drew a polite chuckle from the audience.
But the question wasn’t actually as silly as some might think.
In today’s post we look at some evidence suggesting an evolutionary advantage involving Parkinson’s.
King’s College London Chapel. Source: Schoolapply
Despite the impressive name, King’s College London is not one of the grand old universities of England.
Named after its patron King George IV (1762-1830), the university was only founded in 1829 (compare this with 1096 for Oxford and 1209 for Cambridge; even silly little universities like Harvard date back further – 1636). The university is spread over five separate campuses, geographically spread across London. But if you ever get the chance to visit the main Strand campus, ask for the chapel and take a moment to have a look – it is very impressive (the image above really doesn’t do it justice).
As I mentioned in the intro, each year King’s College London holds the Edmond J. Safra Memorial Lecture. It is an event that is open to the public and it involves a discussion regarding innovative new research on Parkinson’s. The evening is held in honour of the late Mr Edmond J Safra.
Edmond J. Safra. Source: Edmondjsafrafoundation
This year, Professor Marios Politis and members of his research group were presenting lectures on “How can technology improve diagnosis and treatment for Parkinson’s”. The lectures were very interesting, but the reason I am writing about it here is because during the question and answer session at the end of the lectures, the following question was asked:
“What’s the evolutionary advantage of Parkinson’s?”
Given the debilitating features of the condition, the audience was naturally amused by the question. And there was most likely several people present who would have thought the idea of any evolutionary advantage to Parkinson’s a ridiculous concept.
But it’s not.
And there is actually research to suggest that something evolutionary could be happening with Parkinson’s.
?!?!? What do you mean?