“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” Albert Einstein
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Isaac Asimov
Summary: (Part 1) A brief review of my year with Parkinson’s. (Part 2) An overview of 12 scientific research studies on Parkinson’s from 2016.
Part 1. A personal Parkinson’s 2016 calendar review
Life with Parkinson’s: 706 days ago I started this blog ‘Journey with Parkinson’s’; and it’s been a remarkable journey through time since then. Life is full, rarely a dull moment. Dealing with a disorder like Parkinson’s is difficult because it slowly creeps around your body, somewhat stealth by nature but always ever present. It requires a daily inventory of body movements, mental capacity and overall self-feelings compared to the day-week-month-year before.
Life is loving, fun, intellectually challenging, active, full, rarely a moment off; however, its best that way for me. I close this paragraph by repeating two quotes from last year. They remind me to simply try to live as best as I am able for as long as I can. My hope for you is likewise as well; keep going, keep working, stay active, stay the course. Please make a manageable life-plan/contract with your care-partner, family and close friends; keep going, and please don’t give up.
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” H.G. Wells
My year with Parkinson’s: To highlight my 2016, I’ve chosen 1 event/month to describe (not mentioned are the trips to the beach/vacation with Barbara, golf with the golf buddies, and other activities related to education, research and outreach for Parkinson’s.) I am a very fortunate person.
(JAN) The 22nd year/class of undergraduates taking my spring semester course on ‘Biology of Blood Diseases’, great fun!
(FEB) An anniversary dinner with Barbara, a most loving person and the best care-partner.
(MAR) Started work on the WPC Parkinson Daily (eNewspaper) for the World Parkinson Congress).
(APR) Compiled all of the quotes from the students in class that led to the Kindle version (2016)/Paperback version (2017) of “A Parkinson’s Reading Companion” (Click here to read about it).
(May) Graduation ceremonies are always on Mother’s Day weekend; it is filled with joy and regalia, promise and the future ahead for all of the graduates (typically, I attend the medical school ceremony on Saturday and as many undergraduate ceremonies on SAT-SUN my schedule permits (picture above is from the Dept. Biology commencement).
(JUN) A weekend in the Smoky Mountains in Asheville, NC: to attend a Parkinson’s retreat, to relax-renew-play golf, and to get a second Parkinson’s-related tattoo.
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” Omar Khayyam
(JUL) A weekend in Greenville, SC to participate and get certified in PWR! (Parkinson Wellness Recovery); an amazing experience (click here to read blog post about it).
(AUG) Truly a professional highlight of my career being chosen by the medical students to deliver the 2016 Richard H. Whitehead Lecture (click here to read blog post about it).
(SEP) Attended and presented a poster at the 4th World Parkinson Congress (WPC) in Portland, OR (click here to read about the WPC).
(OCT) Moving Day® NC Triangle, National Parkinson Foundation; great team and such a fun day/experience (click here to read about NC Triangle Moving Day).
(NOV) Research proposal submitted on the role of proteases and their inhibitors, alpha-synuclein and exercise in Parkinson’s. It is something I’ve been thinking about all of last year (click here to read about the funding program).
(DEC) Finished teaching the 3rd class of the Honor’s-version and fall semester of the undergraduate ‘Biology of Blood Diseases’ course; a great honor for me.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer
Part 2. The year (2016) in Parkinson’s science
Parkinson’s with a hopeful future: To live successfully with a chronic and progressing neurodegenerative disorder like Parkinson’s requires much, but in the least it takes hope. We must remain hopeful that advances in Parkinson’s treatment are being made and that our understanding of the science of Parkinson’s is continuing to evolve.
Parkinson’s research: Parkinson’s is the most prevalent neurodegenerative movement disorder. According to PubMed, there were 6,782 publications in 2016 that used “Parkinson’s disease” in the Title/Abstract. Likewise in 2016, PubMed had 9,869 and 1,711 citations on Alzheimer’s disease and on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), respectively. Most research studies move in incremental steps; we describe a hypothesis and collect the data to hopefully advance us forward.
2016, the year in Parkinson’s: To remind us of some of these forward steps in Parkinson’s research, and to add to our base-level of hope, here are 12 projects from 2016 regarding Parkinson’s (there are several studies, not mentioned here, that I’m currently working on for individual blog posts because they seemed super-relevant and in need of more thorough presentation/explanation). Although 12 is a minuscule list of citations/work reported from last year, it reinforces a simple notion that our trajectory is both positive and hopeful.
January, 2016: Dipraglurant FDA-approved to treat dyskinesia. After ~5 years of treatment with the ‘gold-standard’ Levodopa/Carbidopa, many people-with-Parkinson’s develop drug-induced involuntary movement (also called dyskinesia). This can be a serious side-effect of levodopa, and it can lead to numerous detrimental consequences. The pharmaceutical company, Addex Therapeutics, has received orphan drug status for their drug named Dipraglurant, which will be used for the treatment of levodopa-induced dyskinesia. Click here to read about the putative molecular mechanism of Dipraglurant, what advantages Addex gains from the designated orphan-drug status, and for more information about Addex.
“January is here, with eyes that keenly glow, A frost-mailed warrior striding a shadowy steed of snow.” Edgar Fawcett
February, 2016: Early detection of Parkinson’s from mouth salivary gland biopsy. There is no definitive test to identify Parkinson’s in its early stages. Finding an easily accessible tissue for biopsy to help with the diagnosis would be of value. From autopsy samples, the submandibular saliva glands in the mouth seemed to be a relevant and easily accessible site to study. The test involved inserting a needle into the submandibular salivary gland under the jaw, staining for modified-a-synuclein. The results revealed that Parkinson’s patients had increased level of a-synuclein compared to patients without Parkinson’s. Click here to view this paper: Adler, Charles H. et al. “Peripheral Synucleinopathy in Early Parkinson’s Disease: Submandibular Gland Needle Biopsy Findings.” Movement disorders : official journal of the Movement Disorder Society 31.2 (2016): 250–256. PMC. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
“Even though February was the shortest month of the year, sometimes it seemed like the longest.” Lorraine Snelling
March, 2016: Three-dimensional scaffold used to grow neuronal cells for transplant to brain. Scientists have been able to convert adult stem cells into neuronal cells by culturing the stem cells in three-dimensional scaffolding. There are many obstacles successfully using stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease; one of them is converting the stem cells into dopamine-producing-neuronal cells to replace the dead brain cells of the patient. The three-dimensional scaffolding facilitated which allowed the neuronal cells to be injected into mice. Hopefully, this approach will eventually be ready for testing in humans; however, this is a potential glimpse to the future. To read this research paper, click here: “Generation and transplantation of reprogrammed human neurons in the brain using 3D microtopographic scaffolds” by Aaron L. Carlson et al., in Nature Communications. Published online March 17 2016 doi:10.1038/ncomms10862
“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” Charles Dickens,
April, 2016: Role of Mer and Axl in immune clearance of neurons in Parkinson’s.
TAM receptors are found on immune system cells and they help clear out dead cells generated by out bodies. Two of the TAM receptors, dubbed Mer and Axl, help immune cells called macrophages act as garbage collectors. This study asked whether or not the brain microglial cells (brain macrophages) had such activity through Mer and Axl. Interestingly, in mice lacking Mer and Axl, neurons regenerated much more rapidly in certain areas of the brain. Furthermore, microglial expression of Axl was upregulated in the inflammatory environment in a mouse model of Parkinson’s. These results identify TAM receptors as controllers of microglial scavenger activity and also as potential therapeutic targets for Parkinson’s. Click here to view this article: Fourgeaud, L., et al. (2016). “TAM receptors regulate multiple features of microglial physiology.” Nature 532(7598): 240-244.
“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. (Sonnet XCVIII)” William Shakespeare,
May, 2016: Complex genetics found in the study of Parkinson’s in human brain tissue. Genetic changes were found in Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s disease dementia. A team of scientists used RNA sequencing to illuminate two phenomena linked with the onset of Parkinson’s disease: specifically, differential gene expression and alternative splicing of genes. The study describes 20 differentially expressed genes in Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s dementia, comparing these with healthy controls. Genes showing over-expression included those involved with cell movement, receptor binding, cell signaling and ion homeostasis. Under-expressed genes had an involvement with hormone signaling. These results increase our understanding of Parkinson’s; furthermore, the complexity of their results suggest we may be able to achieve a more detailed diagnosis . Click here to view paper: Henderson-Smith, Adrienne et al. “Next-Generation Profiling to Identify the Molecular Etiology of Parkinson Dementia.” Neurology: Genetics 2.3 (2016): e75.
“May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive.” Fennel Hudson
June, 2016: Mutations in a gene called TMEM230 causes Parkinson’s. The role of TMEM230 was found to be in packaging the neurotransmitter dopamine in neurons. Interestingly, TMEM230 bridges membranes in synaptic vesicles; these vesicles are storage reservoirs for neurotransmitters. Since the loss of dopamine-producing neurons defines Parkinson’s, a defect in TMEM230 implies a new link to a genetic cause of Parkinson’s. The research team identified this mutation in Parkinson’s patients in North America and Asia. Click here to view paper: Deng, H-X, et al., “Identification of TMEM230 mutations in familial Parkinson’s disease”. Nature Genetics 48, 733–739 (2016).
“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.” L.M. Montgomery
July, 2016: Improving deep brain stimulation (DBS), one patient at a time. Instead of one-size-fits-all, these researchers are pioneering a novel strategy for fine-tuning DBS on each person’s individual physiology. Their DBS platform, termed Phasic Burst Stimulation, has the potential to (i) enhance therapeutic efficacy, (ii) extend battery lifespan; (iii) reduce detrimental side effects, and (iv) adjust as each person’s motor symptoms change. This tuning-based DBS approach has real promise. Click here to view paper: “Phasic Burst Stimulation: A Closed-Loop Approach to Tuning Deep Brain Stimulation Parameters for Parkinson’s Disease.” by A.B. Holt et al., PLOS Computational Biology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.100501
“My life, I realize suddenly, is July. Childhood is June, and old age is August, but here it is, July, and my life, this year, is July inside of July.” Rick Bass
August, 2016: Comparison of different movement disorders to better understand Parkinson’s. These researchers compared multiple system atrophy (MSA) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) to Parkinson’s. MSA and PSP are progressive disorders that also cause changes in balance and walking. The study consisted of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans with each person using a grip strength exercise, which showed changes in the regions of brain that control muscle movement. Parkinson’s patients showed changes in the putamen and the primary motor cortex; MSA patients had changes in the primary motor cortex, the supplementary motor area and the superior cerebellum. PSP patients showed a change in all four areas. Normal healthy controls had no changes. These detailed results (i) show the progression of each movement disorder and (ii) indicate that biomarkers for these specific-regions of the brain might be useful for not only monitoring disease progression but also response to therapy. Click here to view article: Burciu et al., “Functional MRI of disease progression in Parkinson disease and atypical parkinsonian syndromes.”, Burciu, Chung, Shukla, Ofori, McFarland, Okun, Vaillancourt, Neurology, 016 Aug 16;87(7):709-17. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000002985
“The month of August had turned into a griddle where the days just lay there and sizzled.” Sue Monk Kidd,
September, 2016: Preventing falls by combining virtual reality and treadmill training. Falling down is one of the most common and most detrimental problems in the elderly with Parkinson’s. This research team combined treadmill use with virtual reality training. They tested a large group of older adults at high risk for falls; they found that treadmill training with virtual reality led to reduced fall rates compared to treadmill training alone.Click here to view article: Mirelman et al., “Addition of a non-immersive virtual reality component to treadmill training to reduce fall risk in older adults (V-TIME): a randomised controlled trial”, The Lancet, 2016 Sep 17;388(10050):1170-82. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31325-3
“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.” Helen Hunt Jackson
October, 2016: Caffeine-based compounds stop alpha (a)-synuclein misfolding in a yeast model of Parkinson’s. The aggregation (misfolding) of the protein a-synuclein is thought to be a key contributing factor in neuronal cell death that leads to Parkinson’s. The misfolded a-synuclein ultimately forms what are termed Lewy bodies, which produce much neuronal cell morbidity and mortality. Caffeine has been shown to be somewhat protective against Parkinson’s. The study here made double-headed constructs of compounds using caffeine and nicotine and other chemicals and asked whether or not they could stop a-synuclein misfolding. Possibly a far-fetched idea, 2 of the caffeine-double-headed compounds worked. These studies used a novel a-synuclein-fluorescent-green substance expressed in yeast. Expression of the green-a-synuclein misfolded and killed the yeast; however, in the presence of the caffeine-adducts, the green-a-synuclein folded properly and the yeast stayed alive. Such cool science. To read this paper, click here) “Novel dimer compounds that bind α-synuclein can rescue cell growth in a yeast model overexpressing α-synuclein. a possible prevention strategy for Parkinson’s disease”, Jeremy Lee et al., ACS Chem Neurosci. Epub 2016 Oct 7. 2016 Dec 21;7(12):1671-1680. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.6b00209.
“Autumn is my favourite season of all. It is a transitory period that allows the earth to rest before it sees the harshness of winter and hears the promise of spring.” Kamand Kojouri
November, 2016: PINK1 gene mutation linked to early onset of Parkinson’s. A single mutation in the PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1) gene has been found to promote the development of early-onset Parkinson’s. There is growing evidence that PINK1 collaborates with the protein named PARKIN; together they help regulate neuronal cell mitochondria. This interaction to regulate mitochondria (the cell’s power plant) by PINK1 and PARKIN is important because many brain disorders are known to have issues with energy production (mitochondria) besides Parkinson’s. Click here to view paper: Puschmann, A., et al. Heterozygous PINK1 p.G411S increases risk of Parkinson’s disease via a dominant-negative mechanism. Brain 2016; 140 (1): 98-117. doi: 10.1093/brain/aww261.
“October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.” J.K. Rowling,
December, 2016: President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act. Not a paper but a National Institute of Health (NIH) federally-supported research initiative. The Cures Act is focused on cancer, brain disease, drug addiction and other diseases/processes for the next decade. The 21st Century Cures Act contains $4.8 billion in new NIH (National Institutes of Health) funds, including the BRAIN Initiative for the comprehensive mapping of the brain. It is anticipated that we will achieve an even better understanding of Parkinson’s than we have today. Recently, a commentary about the Cures Act from the viewpoint of the NIH was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Click here to read this article: Hudson, K. L. and F. S. Collins (2017). “The 21st Century Cures Act — A View from the NIH.” New England Journal of Medicine 376(2): 111-113.
“December’s wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer’s memory…” John Geddes
“I like the scientific spirit—the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine—it always keeps the way beyond open—always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake—after a wrong guess.” Walt Whitman,
Useful Parkinson’s disease News/Health Information/Reference Sites (click on links below):
Google Scholar- Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s News Today Weekly Digest
Medical News Today (MNT)
Science News- Mind & Brain News
Harvard Medical School- Harvard Healthbeat
The Science of Parkinson’s disease
NY Times- Well
Cover photo credit: winter smoky mts- http://holicoffee.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/great-smoky-mountains-national-park-usa-extreme-out-door-hiking-trail-adventure-37.jpg