Parkinsons News Today keeps you up-to-date with research into Parkinsons disease as it emerges. We brought you daily coverage of experiments into the basic biology of Parkinsons, results of clinical and pre-clinical trials, and key findings from Parkinsons research around the globe.
We look forward to bringing more such news to those with Parkinsons, their family, friends and caregivers throughout 2020.
Here are our 10 most-read stories of 2019, with a short summary of what makes each one relevant to the Parkinsons community.
No. 10 Active Form of Vitamin B12 Found to Prevent Neurodegeneration in Study of Animal Models
A study found that an active form of the vitamin B12 called AdoCbl can ease the effects of dopamine loss that occurs in Parkinsons disease. Using cell lines and several animal models, researchers showed that by reducing LRRK2 enzyme activity, AdoCbl limits the death of dopamine-producing nerve cells, thereby preventing the appearance of symptoms associated with neurodegeneration. Overactivity of LRRK2 is linked to the development of a hereditary form of Parkinsons. AdoCbl is already an FDA-approved compound, and could be used as a basis to develop new therapies to combat hereditary Parkinsons associated with pathogenic variants of the LRRK2 enzyme, according to Iban Ubarretxena, director of theBiofisika Institute and a study co-author.
No. 9 Onstryv Now Approved for Parkinsons Patients in Canada
Canadian Parkinsons disease patients now have access to Onstryv (safinamide), also known as Xadago. Onstryv increases the amount of active dopamine in the brain by both preventing the enzyme that breaks dopamine down from doing so, and by blocking that enzyme from entering cells. Other available treatments cause debilitating fluctuations between normal motor function (called on episodes) and poorer motor function (off periods) as their effects ebb and flow. Four placebo-controlled Phase 3 trials showed that the combination of Onstryv and levodopa led to more on and fewer off periods, and improved motor function in patients. The approval of [Onstryv] in Canada is a step forward for patients who need new treatment options for Parkinsons disease, said Roberto Tascione, CEO of Zambon, one of the companies involved in commercializing this medication.
Xadago was approvedby theU.S. Food and Drug Administration in March 2017 to improvemotor functionin Parkinsons patients who experience off periods while on treatment withlevodopaand/or Lodosyn (carbidopa).
No. 8 Plant Antioxidant Seen to Aid Mitochondria and Ease Motor Problems in Early Parkinsons Study
A pre-clinical study conducted in China showed that alpha-arbutin, an antioxidant found in plants such as the blueberry, might restore mitochondrial function in nerve cells and ease the motor disabilities associated with Parkinsons disease. Treatment with alpha-arbutin partially restored mitochondrial function in nerve cells undergoing oxidative stress (mitochondria act as a cells power house). It also restored these cells ability to remove toxic waste products. Feeding alpha-arbutin to flies carrying a mutated gene known to trigger Parkinsons significantly eased several Parkinsons-like symptoms. Naturally derived-antioxidants might serve as a new class of therapeutic options for [Parkinsons disease], the researchers wrote.
No. 7 Stem Cell Transplants Could Significantly Improve Parkinsons Treatment, Study Suggests
Replacing damaged cells in Parkinsons disease with dopamine-producing stem cells could easemotor symptoms and reduce or eliminate the need for pharmaceutical medicines. As current disease therapies lose their efficacy over time, stem cell therapy might revolutionize Parkinsons treatment, its researchers said.A single surgery could potentially provide a transplant that would last throughout a patients lifespan, reducing or altogether avoiding the need for dopamine-based medications, said Claire Henchcliffe MD, PhD, and Malin Parmar, PhD, co-authors of a study on the benefits of stem cell therapy. However, there are several biological, practical, and commercial hurdles that need circumventing for this to become a routine therapy, according to the editors of theJournal ofParkinsons Disease.
No. 6 Bacteria in Gut Can Promote Parkinsons by Altering Brains Immune Reactions, Study Says
A study found evidence of interaction between the brain and the gut in Parkinsons, in which Gram-negative bacterial infections in the gut trigger an immune response that damages nerve cells. Gut microorganisms are known to communicate with the central nervous system, andstudies suggest that harmful proteins related to Parkinsons may spread to the brain from the gut.Scientists at theUniversit de Montral showed that Gram-negative bacteria, particularly those related to gut infections, triggered an immune response in cells taken from mice. They then showed that mice bred without thePINK1 gene (making them resistant to Parkinsons-like symptoms), when infected with these bacteria, displayed an immune response that led to such symptoms. Mutations in the PINK1 gene cause damage to the mitochondria in brain cells, and are linked to early onsethereditary Parkinsons. The work provides evidence that intestinal infection acts as a triggering event in Parkinsons, andhighlighted the relevance of a gut-brain connection in this disease.
No. 5 Next 20 Years Expected to Bring Message of Hope to Parkinsons Patients, Review Study Finds
By reviewing the past 20 years of research into Parkinsons disease, two scientists see a strong potential for breakthroughs in how this disease is approached over the next 20 years. The review cited developments in better animal models, greater understanding of molecular mechanisms and risk factors, and advances in available and potential therapies as reasons for hope. Among highlights of many advances listed are: 1) the adaptation of existing medicines used in other diseases to treat Parkinsons (drug repurposing); 2) targeting non-motor features such as cognition, speech and balance difficulties that often precede motor symptoms; 3) the use of nanoparticles to block the formation of toxic alpha-synuclein clusters; and, 4) emerging evidence of a link between harmful gut bacteria and brain inflammation. The review also stressed the importance of future trials to test combination therapies.
No. 4 Physical Activity, Coffee, Moderate Alcohol Consumption Protect Against Disease Progression, Study Reports
Good news for lovers of sports, caffeine, and happy hours all of these things, in moderation, may help slow the onset of symptoms of Parkinsons disease. Although how exactly these lifestyle factors affect disease progression remains poorly understood, they correlate strongly with better patient outcomes. Conversely, smoking, heavy drinking and no consumption of alcohol at all were linked to considerably worse outcomes. The study, published in the journalMovement Disorders, needs to be replicated to strengthen the usefulness of its findings. Nonetheless, the work suggests that multiple lifestyle factors potentially modify the rate of symptom progression, its researchers wrote.
No. 3 Dietary Supplement Eases Parkinsons Symptoms, Improves Dopamine Function, Study Shows
The antioxidant dietary supplement N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) may improve dopamine function and ease Parkinsons disease symptoms, according to one study. The body uses NAC to produce an antioxidant called glutathione (GSH), which it uses to prevent the oxidative stress that leads to cell death. Damage due to oxidative stress within dopamine-producing neurons is a key clinical feature of Parkinsons. A trial (NCT02445651), conducted by researchers atThomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, showed that NAC supplementation significantly eased both motor andnon-motor symptoms among 42 Parkinsons patients (21 men and 21 women). These results need to be confirmed in larger and placebo-controlled studies, but offer an encouraging start to a potential low-cost therapy.
No. 2 Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Added Falls, More Sleep Problems, Depression, Study Shows
Low levels of vitamin D were associated with more falls, and greater problems withinsomnia, anxiety, anddepressionin people withParkinsons disease, according to a study by Chinese researchers. Vitamin D deficiency has often been seen in people with Parkinsons, but its relationship to the disease remains controversial. This study, by researchers at theSecond Affiliated Hospital of Soochow UniversityandSoochow University, is one of the few to measure both motor and non-motor outcomes. By conducting detailed clinical evaluations in 182 Parkinsons patients, as well as 185 healthy controls, the group found that low levels of vitamin D were more common in Parkinsons patients than in healthy people, and that vitamin D supplements may ease the diseases nonmotor symptoms.
No. 1 Oral Magnesium Compound Able to Reach Brain Seen to Slow Motor Decline, Neuronal Loss in Early Study
Our years most-read story was of an early stage studyreporting that a type of oral magnesium could enter the brain and ease motor symptoms and nerve cell loss in a mouse model of Parkinsons disease. Mice given magnesium-L-threonate, which can cross the blood-brain barrier (a semipermeable membrane that protects the brain from the outside environment) reduced the loss of dopamine-producing neurons, slowed the decline in motor function, and limited the oxidative stress that is associated with Parkinsons. It is important to note that while magnesium-L-threonate provided therapeutic benefits, magnesium sulfate the first choice as a clinical magnesium supplement did not. [T]he combination of [magnesium] with an agent that promotes its transportation to the brain is essential for the neuroprotection of this element, the studys scientists wrote.
AtParkinsons News Today we hope these stories and our reporting throughout 2020 help to better inform and improve the lives of everyone affected by Parkinsons.
We wish all our readers a happy 2020.
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Ana holds a PhD in Immunology from the University of Lisbon and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Instituto de Medicina Molecular (iMM) in Lisbon, Portugal. She graduated with a BSc in Genetics from the University of Newcastle and received a Masters in Biomolecular Archaeology from the University of Manchester, England. After leaving the lab to pursue a career in Science Communication, she served as the Director of Science Communication at iMM.
Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith