Tagged: Parkinsons

The ADHD study from Utah

 

This week a new research report was released that got a few readers concerned.

The article published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology suggested that there may be an association between early onset Parkinson’s and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or ADHD).

In today’s post, we will discuss what ADHD is, look at what the results of the study are proposing, and we will try to calm some nerves by explaining that while the results are very interesting (if they can be replicated and validated in a larger data set), the association only affects a very small number of individuals.

 


o-ADHD-facebook

Source: Huffington Post

It may come as a bit of a surprise, but one of the most popular pages on this website deals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or ADHD – click here to read that post).

I am not sure why this is the case.

At the time of writing that particular post, there was very little in the way of any associations between Parkinson’s and ADHD. But this week the number of views for that ADHD post went through the roof.

This increase in activity probably had less to do with my amazing prose and more to do with the release of this research report:

Title: Increased risk of diseases of the basal ganglia and cerebellum in patients with a history of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Authors: Curtin K, Fleckenstein AE, Keeshin BR, Yurgelun-Todd DA, Renshaw PF, Smith KR, Hanson GR.
Journal: Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 Sep 12.
PMID: 30209407

The release of this report has been led to all kinds of media headlines (Click here and here for examples), and some panicked emails to SoPD HQ from concerned readers (particularly parents).

For those who don’t have time to read on, here is the short version of what today’s post is going to say: the results of the study are interesting, but the observed association only affects a very small number of individuals. And until the results are replicated and validated in a much larger study, there is little reason to panic.

And now for the ridiculously long version of this post – let’s start with the obvious first question:

What is ADHD?

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Monthly Research Review – August 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 August 2018.

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

 


So, what happened during August 2018?

In world news:

August 1 – American technology company became the world’s first public company to achieve a market capitalization of US$1 trillion.

August 12th – NASA launched the unmanned ‘Parker Solar Probe’ which will study the Sun (up close and personal)

August 16th – Singer, song writer and pianist Aretha Louise Franklin passed away (sad day)

August 31st – Joe Giaglia, director of California Skateparks, who had previously made a x12.5 scale replica of a skate board finally got it certified by Guinness World Records as the largest in the world.

Seriously, it measures 35 feet, 7 inches long (10.8 meters)!

 

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

In August 2018, there were 679 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (5372 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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On the hunt for biomarkers

 

The monitoring and assessment of the symptoms/features of Parkinson’s is a big deal in the research community at the moment.

There is currently a mad hunt for ‘biomarkers’ – reliably measurable physical characteristics – that could help not only with the assessment of individuals living with the condition, but could also aid in the running of clinical trials by providing additional measures of efficacy/benefit.

Recently an interesting perspective was written by some of the leading researchers in this field.

In today’s post, we review what the perspective outlined, and we will discuss other aspects of the biomarker research that need to be considered by the wider Parkinson’s community.

 


Perspective. Source: Huffingtonpost

Scientific journals will often invite the research leaders in a particular field of investigation to write a brief journal article that deals with unique view of a common problem.

Articles of this nature are called ‘Perspectives‘.

And recently a very interesting perspective was published in the journal Science on the topic of biomarkers for Parkinson’s.

Title: Finding useful biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease
Authors: Chen-Plotkin AS, Albin R,….a lot of additional authors…, Zhang J
Journal: Science Translational Medicine, 15 Aug 2018, 10 (454), eaam6003.
PMID: N/A

This perspective included a rather long list of a ‘who’s-who’ of Parkinson’s researchers – both academic and industry. Even members of the Michael J Fox Foundation and Verily/Google Life Sciences were included.

The perspective sought to highlight ‘the “ecosystem” of shared biofluid sample biorepositories and data sets will focus biomarker efforts in Parkinson’s‘. It is a very enlightening read, one that begs for reader responses. But sadly the article is behind a ‘pay wall’, and so many in the Parkinson’s community won’t be able to provide any thoughts or feedback.

Shame.

But not to worry, we can discuss the matter here. And the best place to start that discussion is with the obvious first question:

What is a biomarker?

A biomarker is an objectively measurable physical characteristic associated with a condition. It is a biological component of a condition that correlates with that condition in some way. For example, the DaTscan brain imaging technique provides a ‘biomarker’ for Parkinson’s by measuring the amount of dopamine re-absorption in the brain. By labelling the dopamine neurons with a radioactive marker, we can quantify the levels of dopamine activity in a person.

An example of a DaTscan. Source: Cedars-sinai 

What did the perspective say about biomarkers for Parkinson’s?

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Monthly Research Review – July 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 July 2018.

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


So, what happened during July 2018?

In world news:

July 1-31st – Best summer weather ever in the UK (personal opinion based on 12 years experience)

July 7 – Fifty three couples lined up for the 23rd Annual Wife Carrying Championship (?!?). The hour-long race in the small Finnish town of Sonkajarviwas was won by a Lithuanian couple (congrats to Vytautas Kirkliauskas and his wife Neringa Kirkliauskiene). The image below is from one of the UK contests (looks like pretty serious stuff, huh?).

July 10 – Twelve boys and their football coach are successfully rescued from the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand, following a 17-day ordeal that gained worldwide attention.

July 25 – Scientists report the discovery of a subglacial lake on Mars, 1.5 km below the southern polar ice cap. The lake, extending out about 20 km, is the first known body of water on the planet.

July 27 – The longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century occurred, and Mars makes its closest approach to Earth since 2003.

 

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

In July 2018, there were 645 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (4751 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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Voyager Therapeutics update

This week a biotech company called Voyager Therapeutics provided an update regarding a gene therapy approach for people with severe Parkinson’s.

Gene therapy is an experimental therapeutic approach that involves inserting new DNA into cells using a virus. The introduced DNA can help a cell to produce proteins that it usually wouldn’t  produce, and this can help to alleviate the motor features of Parkinson’s.

In today’s post we will discuss what gene therapy is, what Voyager Therapeutics is trying to do, and outline what their update reported.


There are 4 phases to the clinical trial process of testing new treatment for use in humans:

  • Phase I determines if a treatment is safe in humans (this is conducted in an ‘open label’ manner)
  • Phase II ‘double blindly’ assesses in a small cohort of subjects if the treatment is effective
  • Phase III involves randomly and blindly testing the treatment in a very large cohort of patients
  • Phase IV (often called Post Marketing Surveillance Trials) are studies conducted after the treatment has been approved for clinical use

(‘Open label’ refers to both the investigator and the participants in a study knowing what treatment is being administered; while ‘double blind’ testing refers to studies in which the participants and the investigators do not know whether the participant is receiving the active treatment or an inert control treatment until the end of the study).

Based on the successful completion of their Phase I clinical trials for their gene therapy treatment called VY-AADC (Click here to read more about this), Boston-based biotech firm Voyager Therapeutics approached the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the goal of shifting their clinical trial programme into Phase II testing.

What is gene therapy?

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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.


GettyImages-548553969-56a134395f9b58b7d0bd00df

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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The Big Hero 6 project

Inspiration comes from many different places.

For one young innovator it came from a character in a popular animated movie – an automated robot that could monitor and immediately diagnose medical conditions. This curious source of inspiration has now led to an award-winning piece of research involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, and a mobile app that can differentiate between people with and without Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will discuss this interesting unpublished research from an inspiring individual, who is trying to help us better diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s.


Source: Coub

Have you ever watched the movie ‘Big Hero 6‘?

It is the story of a boy named Hiro who goes on an adventure with a robot called Baymax.

Baymax is a personal healthcare companion that is designed to diagnose and treat medical conditions instantly.

After watching the movie Big Hero 6, Shreya Ramesh became fascinated with the idea of the character Baymax. She began wondering how a machine could be made to be smart enough to analyse the medical conditions, make a diagnosis, and then offer remedies.

So she began reading a great deal about machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies. Then she collected a large data set of information from people with and without Parkinson’s for analysis.

Source: Marketsimplified

Sounds interesting. Then what did she do?

Next, she designed, developed, and tested a smartphone application (using Python scripts) that could potentially one day help with early diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

Source: Dealnews

And Shreya presented her research at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and she is now seeking to write up and publish her results in a scientific journal.

Wow. That’s really impressive!

Yeah. And she did all of this while still going to all her classes in high school.

Excuse me???

Oh, did I forget to mention that she’s just a high school student?

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Squalamine begets Trodusquemine

Researchers at Cambridge University published a new report this week that extends on a very interesting line of Parkinson’s research. The studies focus on a compound (and derivatives of that compound) that has been derived from the dogfish shark.

The protein – called Squalamine – has an amazing ability to prevent the Parkinson’s-associated protein alpha synuclein from clustering (or aggregating) together. The aggregation of alpha synuclein is considered to be a key component of the biology underlying Parkinson’s, and thus any compound that block/reduce this aggregation is viewed with therapeutic applications in mind.

Unfortunately there is a problem with squalamine: it does not cross the blood brain barrier (the protective membrane surrounding the brain).

But a derivative of squalamine – called Trodusquemine – does!

In today’s post, we will look at what Squalamine and Trodusquemine are, we will review the new research, and look at current clinical research efforts involving these compounds.


The effects of aggregated Alpha Synuclein protein in a neuron. Source: R&D

We often talk about one particular protein on this website. It is called alpha synuclein. It is one of the most common proteins in the human brain, and it appears to be centrally involved with Parkinson’s.

In the Parkinsonian brain, alpha synuclein clumps (or aggregates) together, which is believed to lead to the appearance of Lewy bodies.

What are Lewy bodies?

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