Monthly Research Review – December 2022

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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 December 2022.

The post is divided into 10 parts based on the type of research:

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So, what happened during December 2022?

In world news:

December 5th – The US National Ignition Facility achieved fusion ignition, a major milestone in the development of nuclear fusion power


December 7th – After substantial protests against China’s Zero-COVID policies, the Chinese government finally eased its COVID19 restrictions.


December 15th – Astronomers find that a pair of exoplanets orbiting the red dwarf star Kepler-138 are likely to be water worlds.


December 19th – At the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), nearly 200 countries agree a “new” landmark deal to protect a third of the planet for nature by 2030 (more blah-blah as Greta would say)

December 19th – A new world record solar cell efficiency for a silicon-perovskite tandem solar cell was achieved, with scientists in Germany converting 32.5% of sunlight into electrical energy.


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

In December 2022, there were 964 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (10749 for all of 2022 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

Continue reading “Monthly Research Review – December 2022”

Getting serious about saunas

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In 2017, researchers reported that regular episodes in a sauna can dramatically reduce one’s risk of developing neurodegenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Recently, a member of the Parkinson’s community shared another feature of “sauna life” that helps them: they sleep better after a short sauna session right before bed.

In today’s post, we will discuss some of the research associated with the use of saunas.

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Source: Twitter

Fun fact: Finland has over 3 million saunas.

It is a rather impressive number considering that there is only 5.5 million people in the country. So important to the Finnish culture is the humble sauna that Unesco recently registered the sauna on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

You will find a sauna at every public swimming pool, most hotels, private residence, and summer homes by the lake or the sea in Finland.

They are everywhere.


Just as the sport of rugby is central to everything in New Zealand (seriously, it’s like a religion), sauna life is an important corner stone of Finnish society. They love it.

Does this actually have anything to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “Getting serious about saunas”

At last: Selnoflast

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One of the most common questions I get from SoPD readers is what’s new with inflammasome research? Another version of this question is where are the clinical trials for NLRP3 inhibitors in Parkinson’s?

Readers have become very enchanted by this new class of anti-inflammatory drugs as a potential future treatment for Parkinson’s – and there is preclinical evidence to support this vibe. But the  clinical development of these experimental therapies has been slow. 

Recently, the pharmaceutical company Roche has initiated Phase 1b testing of their NLRP3 inhibitor (called Selnoflast) in people with Parkinson’s – the first in this class. 

In today’s post, we will discuss what the inflammasome is, how NLRP3 inhibitors work, and what the new clinical trial involves.

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On the 21st September 2020, the website for an Ireland-based biotech company called Inflazome suddenly disappeared. In its place was a single page, that stated the large pharmaceutical company Roche had purchased the biotech firm and taken on all of its inflammasome-targeting intellectual property (Source).

This was a big deal for folks who were watching the inflammasome research world. It suggested that the big players (pharma) were now interested in this space ($449 million interested in the case of Inflazome). And since then, there has been a rush of other pharma companies buying or developing inflammasome-targeting agents.

The Inflazome purchase was also interesting because the company was targeting Parkinson’s as one of their indications of interest.

And it would appear that Roche is now following up on this interest, having initiated a clinical trial program focused on inflammasomes in Parkinson’s.

Hang on a second. Remind me, what are inflammasomes?

Continue reading “At last: Selnoflast”

Would the real James Parkinson please stand up

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In today’s post, we will discuss a common mistake that is made in presentations about Parkinson’s disease. 

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I was recently listening to a public lecture on the topic of Parkinson’s, and the presenter (who shall remain nameless) started with a slide that showed this image:

And they began with the grand proclamation that “this is Dr James Parkinson, after whom the condition of Parkinson’s disease is named“.

As they said these words, my blood boiled.


There were two things terribly wrong with their statement.

  1. James was not a doctorIn the 18/19th centuries, “doctors” in England had to undergo formal university training to gain possession of a degree in medicine before they could begin to practice medicine. James never went to university, and thus, he was not a “doctor”. Rather, James was an apothecary – like his father – which is a medical professional who formulated and dispensed remedies. Today he would be called a ‘pharmacist’ or ‘chemist’. But back in the 17/1800s, apothecary prepared and administered medicines.

Ok. And what was number 2?

2. The image is not James Parkinson of Parkinson’s disease fame.

Oh, I see. Who is it then?

It is a James Parkinson. But it’s not our James Parkinson.


Continue reading “Would the real James Parkinson please stand up”

Can shaking hands fix shaking hands?

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Novel treatments for Parkinson’s are being proposed on a regular basis, and I really like the way many are based on some pretty left field ideas (light buckets, I’m thinking of you here). Thinking outside the box is important to innovation and progress.

And some of those unconventional approaches are backed not only by historical precedent, but also scientific research. 

Recently, researchers at Stanford University have presented just such an idea: It involves vibrating gloves. 

In today’s post, we will explore what research has been conducted on vibrating hands in Parkinson’s, and discuss what comes next.

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Jean-Martin Charcot. Source: Wikipedia

There are few figures in the history of neurology as revered as Jean-Martin Charcot.

Widely considered the ‘Father of neurology’ and the ‘Napoleon of the neuroses‘, the importance of Charcot’s contribution to modern medicine is definitely not up for debate. One only needs to read the names of the students that he taught at the Salpêtrière Hospital (in Paris) to appreciate that everyone who became someone in the field of neurology passed through his classes.

Those names include Sigmund Freud (the founder of psychoanalysis), Joseph BabinskiPierre JanetPierre MarieAlbert LondeCharles-Joseph BouchardGeorges Gilles de la Tourette (he of Tourette syndrome), Alfred Binet (inventor of the first intelligence test), and Albert Pitres.

The mere fact that these students of Charcot all have Wikipedia pages should speak volumes to his impact on the field. Heck, even the great William James – one of the founding fathers of Psychology – travelled all the way from America just to sit in on Charcot’s classes.

Charcot was one of the most sought-after instructors in all of Europe, and he is immortalised in a painting by André Brouillet:


“Une leçon clinique à la Salpêtrière“ by André Brouillet (Source: Wikipedia)

Cool. But what does monsieur Charcot have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “Can shaking hands fix shaking hands?”

The trans-omics of -omics

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“Precision medicine” is an emerging model of therapeutic intervention in which treatment options are tailored to a specific subtype of a condition or even on an individual patient-based metric that involves an intergrated analysis of his/her comprehensive “-omics” data.

Many different methods of stratifying patients have been proposed and many of them involve adding the word “-omics” to the end of their labels. But these efforts may start to pay big dividends in clinical trials exploring potentially disease modifying therapies in the not too distant future, including in the case of Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will look at one such clinical study exploring better patient stratification in Parkinson’s.

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The original “Make America Great Again”. Source: NYTimes

I think it all started with Ronald Regan.

But I’m not really too sure.

Or more specifically, not Reagan himself, but rather the 1980s conservative radio broadcaster Paul Harvey.

Paul Harvey. Source: Youtube

You see, Harvey was the person who apparently came up with the portmanteau “Reaganomics“. People liked the play on words and thought that it was a clever little label to explain a rather complex subject. But the name kicked off a barrage of imitators with every man and his dog coming up with their own version of -omics.

And scientists really got carried away with the adoption of different kinds of -omics. Every field of research it seems has continuously been inventing new “-omics”. There’s even a wikipedia page for all the different kinds of -omics, and their use has changed our speecheomics (and yes, that really is an actual word).

I am used your posts having odd starting points, but where exactly is this intro going?

Well, I needed to introduce that idea of “-omics” in order for the rest of this post to work.

Oh I see. So what do we mean by -omics?

Continue reading “The trans-omics of -omics”

Disease modification-ish

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Semantics matters – particularly regarding our communication on ideas like “disease modification” for neurodegenerative conditions.

There is a big difference between “disease eradication” (zero worldwide incidence), “disease correction” (the halting/reversing of progression) and “disease modification” (improving the trajectory of disease).

Recently, researchers in Japan have demonstrated “disease modification” in motor neuron disease with a form of vitamin B12.

In today’s post, we will review this new research and discuss how it could be relevant to Parkinson’s.

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Source: LexFridman

During labourious household chores (think: washing the dishes, hanging laundry, or spending time with my daughter), I am usually listening to an audiobook or podcast. One favourite podcast is that of Dr Lex Fridman – an AI researchers at MIT who interviews interesting individuals and discusses a broad range of topics (from neuroscience to weird stuff like aliens, and the meaning of life often gets dragged in as well).

In episode #158, Lex spoke with Zev Weinstein (15 year old son of Prof Eric Weinstein) and I was really struck with how eloquently this young man spoke about philosophy and science, but also the communication of ideas.

Source: Youtube

And at one point in the discussion, Zev said: “Many underestimate the extent to which language and communication really impacts and shapes the ideas and thoughts that are being communicated, and I think if we are willing to accept imperfect labels to categorize particular people or thoughts, in some sense we are corrupting an abstraction in order to represent it and communicate about it. And I think, as we have discussed, those abstractions are particularly important when everything is on fire” – Zev Weinstein (18.03 minutes into the video). The interview occurred in early 2021 around the events of 6th January, hence the “everything on fire” reference.

But the words on “corrupting an abstraction in order to represent it and communicate about it” resonated with me.

And it got me thinking.

Thinking about what?

Continue reading “Disease modification-ish”

Monthly Research Review – October 2022

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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 October 2022.

The post is divided into 10 parts based on the type of research:

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So, what happened during October 2022?

In world news:

6th October – An open source platform (called “MatchMiner“) which matches genomically profiled cancer patients to precision medicine drug trials is presented (Click here and here to read more about this).


7th October –  Neuroscientists report experimental MRI results suggesting that brain functions operate non-classically and their data may support the idea of quantum mechanisms being involved in consciousness as the signal pattern declined when human participants fell asleep (Click here to read more about this).


16th-23rd October – The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party is held. Xi Jinping is elected as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party by the Central Committee, beginning a third term as the leader of China.


20th October – UK Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned after 45 days in the role.


28th October – Elon Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter.


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

In October 2022, there were 902 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (9786 for all of 2022 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

Continue reading “Monthly Research Review – October 2022”

The radiologist at a Parkinson’s conference

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In 2015, a woman with dementia was sitting in hospice care, wheelchair-bound and largely non-communicative. As part of a research project, she was given repeated computed tomography (CT) scans of her brain.

The effect of this seemingly harmless treatment was rather astonishing, and it has led to more research exploring the effect of low dose ionizing radiation on neurodegenerative conditions.

Including Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will discuss what low dose ionizing radiation is, what research has been conducted thus far, and what could be happening in the brain to explain the effect.

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Source: Linkedin

During the lunch break of a recent research conference and desiring some ‘alone time’, I approached a table toward the back of the conference center.

There was only one other inhabitant of this oasis of solitude and after asking if they minded if I sat there (“Please” they gestured), I sat down. A moment or two later, a polite conversation was started. It was innocent enough (“Enjoying the conference?“) but this quickly shifted to specifics (Me asking “So what area of the research is of most interest to you?“).

And this was where the rabbit hole began.

You see, my table companion explained that they had trained as a radiologist – this is a group of doctors that specialise in diagnosing and treating injuries/diseases using medical imaging.

And upon being told their occupation, I asked if they were interested in the research exploring diagnostic imaging for Parkinson’s.

Their answer was: “Well, yes, but I’m more interested in using the imaging therapeutically“.

To which, my facial expression must have shifted towards something like:

My table companion was amused by the expression on my face and added that they lived locally and they were curious about the research being done on Parkinson’s. But more specifically, they were interested to know if anyone was investigating low-dose ionizing radiation as a potential therapeutic treatment.

My facial confusion must have become somewhat more exaggerated at that point, and so they gave me the background history and context to their reason for interest.

It was a fascinating story.

What did they say?

Continue reading “The radiologist at a Parkinson’s conference”

A nod to immunomod with fingolimod

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In general, your immune system does a truly amazing job of keeping you healthy and the dangerous pathogenic world around us at bay.

Trillions of cells constantly monitoring for viruses and other illness-causing agents, and ruthlessly disposing of any that they actually find. But sometimes your immune system can get a little carried away with this task and researchers have developed medications that turn down the volume of immune system activity.

Recently, researchers have reported new data that points towards a particular class of immune cells (lymphocytes) in Parkinson’s, and they have also identified a pathway that could be targeted therapeutically.

In today’s post, we will discuss what lymphocytes are and consider new data highlighting an immunomodulation treatment avenue that could be explored in Parkinson’s.

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Your hematopoietic system. Source: Wikipedia

The process of hematopoiesis (or blood formation) is absolutely fascinating.


You start off with a single, multi-potential hematopoietic stem cell. This is called a hemocytoblast (it’s the big cell in middle of the image below):

A hemocytoblast. Source: Pinterest

Given enough time, this single cell will give rise to an entire blood system, made up of many of different types of cells (as displayed in the schematic above) with very specific functions that are required for us to live normal lives.

It is a remarkable achievement of biology.

Understand that at any moment in time your blood system will contain 20-30 trillion cells (in the average human body). And as the image near the top of the post suggests, there are quite a few branches of potential cell types that these blood stem cells can generate.

Very interesting, but what does this have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “A nod to immunomod with fingolimod”