Monthly Research Review – September 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 September 2022.

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

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So, what happened during September 2022?

In world news:

September 6 – Liz Truss was appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after winning the July–September 2022 Conservative Party leadership election

September 8 – Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96. Her son Charles III succeeded her as King.


16th September – Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman died in an Iranian hospital days after being detained by the Government’s Guidance Patrol (or “morality police” ) for allegedly not complying with the country’s hijab regulations


26th September – NASA’s DART crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos and changed its course in a first test of potential planetary defense (do a google search for “Nasa’s Dart” and watch what happens – very clever!).


30th September – Russian President Vladimir Putin signs treaties absorbing the occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into the Russian Federation ( …and nobody paid attention)


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

In September 2022, there were 888 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (8884 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 6 pieces of Parkinson’s news

Continue reading “Monthly Research Review – September 2022”

The mystery of melanoma

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For a long time, researchers have recognised that there is an association between melanoma and Parkinson’s – with individuals affected by either condition being at higher risk of developing the other. The underlying biology of this connection has remained a mystery.

Recently, new data has pointed toward an unlikely bridge between the two, in the form of DOPA – a key ingredient in the production of the chemical dopamine.

In today’s post, we will discuss what melanoma is, explore the connections with Parkinson’s, and review the new research on DOPA.

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Godzone (Noun). Source: Mindfood

Growing up in New Zealand, the author of this blog developed a healthy fear of the dangers of melanoma at a very young age.

Unfortunately, New Zealand has one of the highest age-standardised incidence rates of melanoma in the world. It occurs in approximately 50 people per 100,000 of the general population, each year (it is one of many things we beat Australia at, their incidences is only 48 per 100,000).

By contrast, in the US the incidence is just 21.8 per 100,000 (Source).

And despite being less common than other types of skin cancer, in New Zealand melanoma accounts for 80% of skin cancer-related deaths (Source).

Wow! Really?

Really, really.

Fact: Melanoma is the third most common cancer in men and women in New Zealand (Source in the UK and US, it is 5th).

But why the high incidence?

Ultraviolet radiation is the main reason. New Zealand and Australia have ~40% higher levels of ultraviolet radiation than the northern hemisphere. That whole ozone hole thing above Antarctica – yep, it’s still a thing (source).

Combine that unfortunate circumstance with the fact that both countries have a high proportion of antipodeans with lighter pigmented skin making up their populations – who (I can confirm) are more susceptible to sunburn – and you have a perfect recipe for melanoma.

I can remember as a kid returning home from the beach looking like a boiled lobster… on a regular basis.

An ACDC fan. Source: Runt

I really hate to say it, but New Zealand isn’t quite perfect.

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

Continue reading “The mystery of melanoma”

PWP: Parrots with Parkinson’s?

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Lewy bodies are densely packed aggregates of proteins and lipids that can be found in some neurons in the brain of many people with Parkinson’s. They have long been considered a cardinal feature of the Parkinsonian brain.

To date, humans are the only species that have displayed evidence of Lewy bodies.

But very recently new data has suggested that Lewy body-like pathology might not be so human-specific.

In today’s post, we will discuss what are Lewy bodies are and explore the new research report suggesting that they might not be unique to humans. 

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Source: Theanimalfacts

The yellow-crowned parrot are remarkably similar to humans.

They have a lifespan of 60 to 80 years (in captivity; 20 to 30 years in the wild), and they are monogamous in their pairing, with pairs often remaining together for life. And they are rather vocal (but curiously they don’t have vocal cords).

Ok, their courtship is slightly different to humans (it involves lots of bowing, drooping, flicking of wings, raising of feet, and dilating of pupils) and chocolate is extremely poisonous to them.

But by and large, they are remarkably similar to us (at least as far as birds go).

Great, but what does any of this have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “PWP: Parrots with Parkinson’s?”

Monthly Research Review – August 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 August 2022.

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

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So, what happened during August 2022?

In world news:

August 1st – Patrick, a 4 year old pony became the mayor of the Devonshire village of Cockington – a village frequented by a teenage Agatha Christie – after more than 200 people signing an online petition (Click here to read more about this).


4th August – China initiated its largest ever military exercise around Taiwan, an event that coincided with a controversial visit to the island nation by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking U.S official to visit Taiwan since the 1990s.


15th August – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi signed a decree to enforce the country’s hijab and chastity law. The new law resulted in a new list of restrictions on how women can dress and “women who publish their pictures without a hijab on the Internet will be deprived of some social rights for six months to one year” (Source).


18th August – The editing of multiple genes in soybean by researchers has been shown to improve photosynthesis and boost yields by 20% (Click here to read more about this).


31st August – Sincarnate’s AI (“Midjourney“)-generated work “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” took first place in the digital category at the Colorado State Fair… and the other artists were not impressed (“We’re watching the death of artistry unfold before our eyes” – Click here to read more about this)


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

In August 2022, there were 863 research articles added to the Pubmed website with the tag word “Parkinson’s” attached (7996 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 6 pieces of Parkinson’s news

Continue reading “Monthly Research Review – August 2022”

Parkinsonism type 1 through infinity

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Many researchers argue that there is no such thing as “Parkinson’s” (a singular disease that has a specific causal event and similar outcome).

They also suggest that holding on to this idea is hurting our ability to develop better therapies to treat the condition.

In today’s post, we will explore this idea further and look at a recent review article addressing it.

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Source: Azquotes

Nosology is the branch of medical science that deals with the classification of diseases.

The goal of nosology is to have “a description whose primary purpose is enabling a diagnostic label to be put on the situation” (Source).

Note here the use of the word ‘situation‘, instead of ‘disease‘ in the sentence above. Much of what doctors and clinicians face in medicine are not specific diseases. Rather, they are situations (or conditions) that need to be treated.

Think of stroke. It “is a medical condition in which poor blood flow to the brain causes cell death” (Source). Certain diseases (for example, diabetes or heart disease) may result in an individual having a stroke, but the stroke itself is typically a very individual condition/situation. And this is what clinicians attempt to treat.

We often think of diseases as being defined by a specific cause. Like the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) viral infection that leads to COVID-19. But even here the situation that doctors face can vary widely – some infected people die, while others are completely asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

Where are you going with this? You don’t think Parkinson’s is a ‘disease’?

Continue reading “Parkinsonism type 1 through infinity”

The Rise of the Sartans?

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Drug repurposing represents a more rapid way of bringing new treatments to the public than the traditional novel drug development route. It involves clinically testing therapies in new conditions for which they are not currently approved.

Researchers conduct large drug screening studies to identify agents that could be repurposed and basic science experiments can also provide data to support evaluating a particular class of drug in new medical conditions.

Recently, accumulating evidence has pointed towards a class of drugs called sartans as potential candidates for repurposing for Parkinson’s. 

In today’s post, we will discuss what sartans are and review some of new studies suggesting the case for support.

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The sartan family photo. Source: MDPI

The “Sartans” sound like an ancient Greek tribe or Scottish clan.

Like a formidable horde of Viking brigands bearing down on some hapless village that is unaware it is about to be pillaged. One can imagine someone in said village suddenly seeing something out of the ordinary, realizes the impending disaster, and screaming “the sartans are coming! The sartans are coming!

Source: Lifeinnorway

But the reality is something else entirely.

Sartans are in fact a class of drugs that are widely used for the treatment of hypertension (that is: high blood pressure). They are also administered to patients with certain heart or kidney diseases. The drugs work by blocking the function of a hormone.

That hormone is called angiotensin II.

Angiotensin II has a bad habit of causing your blood vessels (the tubes that transport blood around your body) to narrow. This action can increase your blood pressure and force your heart to work harder. Not a good situation in terms of longevity.

And before we go any further it has to be said, like any marauding tribe, the sartans need to be treated with respect – they are powerful drugs and can do worse than simply making people feel dizzy if they lower the blood pressure too much.

Good to know. But what do sartans have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “The Rise of the Sartans?”

Spice up your life

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For a very long time, curcumin has been used as a nutritional and medicinal agent by many cultures.

Very recently, a clinical trial was conducted to explore the potential of curcumin on Parkinson’s. And the findings were interesting.

In today’s post, we will review the review the results of that study (and others).

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Source: News-medical

Next time you are speaking with your neighbour, you should point out to them that there is a great deal of diversity in the number of species of Curcuma plants.

In India alone, there is approximately 40 to 45 species. And in Thailand there is another 30 to 40 species. Throughout tropical Asia there are numerous wild species of Curcuma, and even New Guinea and northern Australia are known to have Curcuma plants.

Curcuma plants. Source: Pacificbulbsociety

Curcuma is a perennial, herbaceous flowering plant that belongs to the broader ginger family. The plants can reach a height of one meter and they produce numerous, edible rhizomes (creeping rootstalk).

Rhizomes. Source: Etsy

The interior of these rhizomes are yellow or orange and can be reduced into a powder.

That powder is the spice we call turmeric.

Great. But what does turmeric have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “Spice up your life”

Hydroxychloroquine… I kid you not

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I was reluctant to write this post given the media storm that tainted this drug during the early days of the COVID pandemic, but the science here is intriguing.

Recently, researchers conducted a nationwide case-controlled study of 22,189 Finnish people diagnosed with Parkinson’s between 1996 to 2015.

When they analysed their large dataset, they found an association between hydroxychloroquine and a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will review this new research and discuss what could explain this curious finding.

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Dr Didier Raoult. Source: Letelegramme

On March 16, 2020, a video discussing a small study investigating the use of a drug called hydroxychloroquine in patients with SARS-CoV-2 was posted on YouTube (and a few days later a report on the study was made available).

It was an open-label, non-randomized study involving just 36 hospitalized patients with documented SARS-CoV-2 infections. It was a methodologically flawed study and making the results public without any kind of peer-review step was unethical, but this did not stop these results causing a media storm. And news of a potential first weapon in the fight against the new viral pandemic quickly spread, causing shortages in supplies of the drug for individuals with inflammatory conditions who actually needed it.

Eventually, a number of much larger and better designed clinical trials demonstrated that the drug did not represent a sensible treatment against COVID (Click here to read more about this).

But sadly, a previously very useful treatment became somewhat tainted. And it has since been the subject of many jokes, cartoons and memes:

Source: TheWeek

Despite its 15 minutes of ignominy though, hydroxychloroquine is still a very useful drug and it may still hold one or two surprises.

Great. But what does this have to do with Parkinson’s? 

Continue reading “Hydroxychloroquine… I kid you not”

The heights of Parkinson’s

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Being tall is considered desirable in many cultures.

Recent research suggests that height may be associated with an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will review this new research and try to understand what it could mean.

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Wadlow (back row on the left). Source: Telegraph

Robert Pershing Wadlow was always in the back row of school photos.

Born February 22nd 1918, Wadlow’s birth certificate indicated that he was “normal height and weight“, but from that point onwards, there was nothing normal about his rate of growth.

By the time, Robert was 8 years old, he was taller than his father (he was 6 foot/183cm). And eight years later when he turned 16, Robert was 8 foot 1 (2.47 m)… and he was still growing.

Here is a picture of him with his family at 19 years of age:

Source: Businessinsider

Robert was the tallest person in recorded history, and at the time of his death – at the tragically young age of 22 – Robert was almost 9 feet tall (8 ft 11; 2.72 m)… and still growing! (due to hyperplasia)

While not quite reaching the same lofty heights as Robert, I can sort of relate to his situation. You see, in addition to being freakishly good looking, I’m also on the tall side side of things.

On a good day, I am 6 foot 8 (207cm), but often 6 foot 7 around bed time (gravity is a drag!).

Whoa, that’s tall. But what does any of this have to do with Parkinson’s?

Continue reading “The heights of Parkinson’s”

Finding religion

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According to collected statistics, about 85% of the world’s people identify with a religion (Source). 

Curiously, new research suggests that people in the remaining “non-religious” 15% may be at higher risk of developing Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will review the new research and try to understand this strange association.

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Source: Gotquestions

Before we start, I think that it is only fair to state that while I fully respect the rights of others to believe and practice what they want in terms of philosophical/religious beliefs (as long as it does not harm), I am an apatheist.

Pray tell, what is an apatheist? Is that like an atheist?


The apatheist position holds that the existence or non-existence of God(s) is utterly irrelevant. We are apathetic towards the question of “God”.

It is not a stance based on skepticism (like atheists or agnostics), but rather a lack of interest in the subject matter itself. Basically, the big picture question does not warrant any time or effort in the life of an apatheist. We simply do not care.

(I say “we”, but I am not a card-carrying member of any formal group, it is simply the designation that I can define myself by when folks come knocking on my door)

And for the record, my daughter is a practicing Christian, and I support her in her faith.

Ok, very nice, thanks for sharing, but…uh,… what does this have to do with Parkinson’s?

Actually, new research suggests quite a lot.

What do you mean?

Continue reading “Finding religion”