An important aspect of developing new potentially ‘curative’ treatments for Parkinson’s is our ability to accurately test and evaluate them. Our methods of assessing Parkinson’s at the moment are basic at best (UPDRS and brain imaging), and if we do not improve our ability to measure Parkinson’s, many of those novel treatments will fail clinical testing and forever remain just “potentially” curative.
Researchers from Madrid (Spain) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed new technology that could aid in better measuring and monitoring of Parkinson’s over time.
And it is as easy as typing on your keyboard or sending a text message.
In today’s post, we will look at how the monitoring of typing could provide a useful ‘real world’ method of assessing people with Parkinson’s over time.
Measuring stuff. Source: Medium
When we think about new technology for the monitoring of Parkinson’s, we all too often think of a device that is strapped on to the body in order to measure tremor or speed of movement (Click here to read a previous post on wearable tech).
Or perhaps a smart phone app that has simple tests on it that individuals can use to assess themselves over time (Click here to read a previous post on this topic).
One of the issues with these approaches, however, is ‘adherence‘ – these devices require effort from the individual being assessed (they have to strap on the motion sensing device or remember to complete the task on the smart phone). And after the first week or so of using the device or the app, the novelty wears off and recordings may be less frequent.
Many of these methods are also slightly ‘unnatural‘, and they may deviate the individual from their normal way of life. For example, wearable tech is amazing, but the individual may find it uncomfortable to wear all the time or may alter aspects of their behaviour to better suit the wearing of the device.
A better approach would be to have methods of monitoring that require no effort from the individual. Tools that silently and seamlessly slip into the background of their lives and monitor continuously – the individual completely forgets about them, which provides a more unbiased assessment.
We have previously discussed some examples of more ‘real world/natural’ approaches (such as smart pills – Click here to read that post – and also with regards to sleep monitoring – Click here to read that post), and today we will explore another example: keyboard stroke monitoring.
What is keyboard stroke monitoring?
It is particularly useful for groups like the Parkinson’s community though, who are tired of having just one hour per year of assessments with their neurologist.
In today’s post, we will look at some new tracking/monitoring technologies that are being developed that could have important implications for not only how we assess Parkinson’s disease, but also for how we treat it.
Homo deus. Source: RealClearLife
I have recently finished reading ‘Homo Deus‘ by Yuval Noah Harari – the excellent follow-up to his previous book ‘Sapiens‘ (which is an absolute MUST READ!). The more recent book provides an utterly fascinating explanation of how we have come to be where we will be in the future (if that makes any sense).
In the final few chapters, Harari discusses many of the technologies that are currently under development which will change the world we live in (with a lot of interesting and cautionary sections on artificial intelligence – the machines that will know vastly more about us than we know about ourselves).
Of particular interest in this part of the book was a section on the Google-Novartis smart lens.
What is the Google-Novartis smart lens?
The initial project is rather ambitious: develop and take to the clinic a glucose-sensing contact lens for people with diabetes. The idea has been particularly championed by Google founder Sergey Brin (a prominent figure within the Parkinson’s community with his significant contributions to Parkinson’s research each year).
People with diabetes have to keep pricking their finger over the course of a day in order to check the levels of insulin in their blood. A less laborious approach would be welcomed by the diabetic world (an estimated 415 million people living with diabetes in the world).
This is what the lens may eventually look like:
Every six months or so, I put up a post asking for feedback/thoughts/suggestions on the style/content of the site. Or requests for any special topics readers would like to read.
In this post, I also try to provide some insight as to how the website is going and what is happening behind the scenes.
The whole point of this particular post is to provide an opportunity to you the reader to help improve the site – any and all suggestions are welcomed.
The State of the Blog address. Source: Tngop
So lets begin with where things are at present.
The state of the blog:
The blog has been running since the 9th September, 2015. There are currently 155 individual posts (64 this year) dealing with all manner of Parkinson’s disease research-related content (for the full list, please see the site map page).
I have had some readers ask about how much traffic is visiting the site on a regular basis and in the interest of full transparency blah-blah-blah: the site is currently receiving about 3,000 visitors per week. Curiously, Mondays receive the most views (approximately 21% of visitors), and 8pm is the busiest time of each day for the site (approximately 12% of views – is nothing on TV on Mondays nights?).
In this post we discuss several recently published research reports suggesting that Parkinson’s disease may be an autoimmune condition. “Autoimmunity” occurs when the defence system of the body starts attacks the body itself.
This new research does not explain what causes of Parkinson’s disease, but it could explain why certain brain cells are being lost in some people with Parkinson’s disease. And such information could point us towards novel therapeutic strategies.
The first issue of Nature. Source: SimpleWikipedia
The journal Nature was first published on 4th November 1869, by Alexander MacMillan. It hoped to “provide cultivated readers with an accessible forum for reading about advances in scientific knowledge.” It has subsequently become one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world, with an online readership of approximately 3 million unique readers per month (almost as much as we have here at the SoPD).
Each Wednesday afternoon, researchers around the world await the weekly outpouring of new research from Nature. And this week a research report was published in Nature that could be big for the world of Parkinson’s disease. Really big!
On the 21st June, this report was published:
Title: T cells from patients with Parkinson’s disease recognize α-synuclein peptides
Authors: Sulzer D, Alcalay RN, Garretti F, Cote L, Kanter E, Agin-Liebes J, Liong C, McMurtrey C, Hildebrand WH, Mao X, Dawson VL, Dawson TM, Oseroff C, Pham J, Sidney J, Dillon MB, Carpenter C, Weiskopf D, Phillips E, Mallal S, Peters B, Frazier A, Lindestam Arlehamn CS, Sette A
Journal: Nature. 2017 Jun 21. doi: 10.1038/nature22815.
In their study, the investigators collected blood samples from 67 people with Parkinson’s disease and from 36 healthy patients (which were used as control samples). They then exposed the blood samples to fragments of proteins found in brain cells, including fragments of alpha synuclein – this is the protein that is so closely associated with Parkinson’s disease (it makes regular appearances on this blog).
What happened next was rather startling: the blood from the Parkinson’s patients had a strong reaction to two specific fragments of alpha synuclein, while the blood from the control subjects hardly reacted at all to these fragments.
In the image below, you will see the fragments listed along the bottom of the graph (protein fragments are labelled with combinations of alphabetical letters). The grey band on the plot indicates the two fragments that elicited a strong reaction from the blood cells – note the number of black dots (indicating PD samples) within the band, compared to the number of white dots (control samples). The numbers on the left side of the graph indicate the number of reacting cells per 100,000 blood cells.
The investigators concluded from this experiment that these alpha synuclein fragments may be acting as antigenic epitopes, which would drive immune responses in people with Parkinson’s disease and they decided to investigate this further.