April 6, 2019 – Parkinson’s Weekly Update

This is a recap of the most interesting news and discussions related to Parkinson’s Disease this past week.

We start by trying to make sense of the latest news reports about Vitamin B-12 and hereditary Parkinson’s. The research is very preliminary, but quite interesting when considered in conjunction with other recent studies. Next we ponder why researchers are giving fruit flies jet lag; see how PD progression can be measured with standard MRI equipment; learn why yelling at clouds may be a sign of a particular non-motor symptom of PD; watch local TV news stations participate in Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month with coverage of a unique Parkinson’s exercise program in Austin, Texas, as well as 7 different Rock Steady Boxing affiliates; and more.

  1. Vitamin B-12A recent study identified Vitamin B-12 as being able to offer neuroprotection in hereditary Parkinson’s Disease associated with the LRKK2 gene. This was an animal study, so we don’t yet know how this applies to humans, but there are a few reasons why this could be significant for a wider audience of people with PD, and not just those with the LRKK2 gene. Did you know that having a low level of B-12 in early stages of PD is a good predictor that you will see a greater worsening of mobility as PD progresses? Or that B-12 deficiency can cause strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet? Learn more: https://parkinson.fit/forums/topic/making-sense-of-the-latest-news-about-vitamin-b-12-and-parkinsons/
  2. For Parkinson’s Disease Awareness month, Cleveland Clinic is feeding media outlets a ready-made story about the importance of exercise with Parkinson’s. It’s rather odd to see how they seed these stories to the media hoping someone will pick up the story, and how they include a video with awkward silent interludes to allow the local newscaster to insert a voiceover to ask questions of the expert. Still, we like the message from Dr. Benjamin Walters: “If you have early Parkinson’s, this is something that there’s a lot of data from supported by this and other studies – that show that exercising improves the outcome, may improve the progression of the disease and can improve symptoms and disability.” See behind the media curtain here: https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2019/04/04/study-parkinsons-risk-lower-for-active-men/
    (The study being referred to is here: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2703129)
  3. This next study was ready for release on April 1, but they held it until April 2, so it would have a chance of being taken seriously. Researchers were stunned to discover that jet lag could stop Huntington’s Disease in fruit flies. I was stunned that they thought to check. But this quote from the lead researcher made me wonder what these scientists will think of next: “We essentially gave the flies jet lag for every day of their lives. It is like travelling four hours east every day.” I have so many questions about these frequent flyers! I know that fruit flies have a choice of airlines when they fly. Were there particular airlines whose aircraft interiors made the flies feel more like they were at home? Which airports and airport restaurants do fruit flies prefer? Read more: https://parkinson.fit/forums/topic/what-will-they-think-of-next-jet-lag-stops-huntingtons-disease-in-fruit-flies/
  4. The University of Florida department of Advancement published an interesting article on Parkinson’s Disease. The article focuses on researcher David Vaillancourt, and research study participant Gary Keating, brought together by a common goal to cure Parkinson’s, and a love for the game of basketball. Both have stories to tell that involve Parkinson’s. Vaillancourt led a team that used diffusion imaging, a type of MRI, to reveal that, over time, Parkinson’s patients lost vital dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra and gained more of a fluid known as free water. Keating, on the other hand, has had a prolonged personal experience with Parkinson’s Disease. A former basketball coach, Gary helped his father (also a basketball coach) battle PD for 14 years. Six months after his father’s death, Gary was diagnosed with young onset PD himself. 10 years later, he’s challenging PD with basketball therapy, and challenging the lead researcher of the study he participated in to a game of one-on-one. https://parkinson.fit/forums/topic/parkinsons-research-and-basketball-therapy-for-parkinsons/
  5. CBC News Canada has a great article and video about an Alexander Technique practitioner who is using the therapy to help people with Parkinson’s Disease. The Alexander Technique is a 100+ year old educational method that was created to retrain habitual patterns of movement and posture. By teaching how to change faulty postural habits, it claims to enable improved mobility, posture, performance and alertness, along with relief of chronic stiffness, tension and stress. People study the Technique for a variety of reasons. The most common is to relieve pain through learning better coordination of the musculoskeletal system. Another reason people take lessons in the Alexander Technique is to enhance performance. Athletes, singers, dancers, and musicians use the Technique to improve breathing, vocal production, and speed and accuracy of movement. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/parkinson-s-candace-cox-actor-edmonton-1.5083075
  6. Michael J. Fox sat down with Fortune Magazine to discuss PD research and life with PD. Looking back, Fox said he has been surprised about two things as it relates to his disease. The first? “I didn’t realize we were starting with Kitty Hawk and we wanted to build a space shuttle,” he said with a smile. The second? “I’m still standing.” Watch the interview: http://fortune.com/2019/04/03/michael-j-fox-parkinsons/
  7. Yelling at clouds is one thing, but it’s another thing when you start taking pictures of clouds and posting them on social media with urgent messages about how they are symbols about the need to repent and get ready for the end of the world. Dan McFarland is sharing his experience to raise attention about a somewhat common non-motor symptom of advanced stage Parkinson’s, delusions and hallucinations. More on his story: http://www.imperialbeachnewsca.com/online_features/health_and_wellness/article_4c2415de-5e4b-50ff-aee6-02e31cbc6c67.html. This story includes a link to MoretoParkinsons.com, which the cynic in me sees as a promotional website for Nuplazid, a pharmaceutical drug used to treat these symptoms, which has been receiving increased FDA scrutiny. However, cynicism aside, it is worthwhile to educate yourself on warning signs to better recognize these symptoms.
  8. Research Brief: The New York Times published an interesting article on Klotho, a protein that appears to be associated with aging and brain function. It is being studied primarily in relation to Alzheimer’s, but may also be applicable to Parkinson’s Disease. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/02/health/klotho-brain-enhancement-dementia-alzheimers.html
  9. Research Brief: Researchers at Stanford blocked the CD22 protein in a mouse study, which restored the garbage-collecting performance of microglia that diminishes in aging brains. “The mice became smarter,” researcher Tony Wyss-Coray said. “Blocking CD22 on their microglia restored their cognitive function to the level of younger mice. CD22 is a new target we think can be exploited for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.” http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2019/04/blocking-proteins-activity-restores-cognition-in-old-mice.html
  10. CBS Austin offers an introduction to Power for Parkinsons, a unique Parkinson’s Fitness program offering free exercise, dance and singing classes. 13 weekly classes are available in the Austin Texas metro area. https://cbsaustin.com/features/we-are-austin/power-for-parkinsons-improving-quality-of-life-through-exercise-and-community
    Power for Parkinsons also has an extensive library of exercise videos for people with Parkinson’s Disease. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9QTes9SMZKbSzDS-nvhr3g/featured
  11. Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month has encouraged a lot of local TV stations to do feature stories on Rock Steady Boxing affiliates around the United States. Here are a few that we noticed:

Previous Week – March 31, 2019

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