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I have Parkinson's diseases and thought it would be nice to have a place where the contents of updated news is found in one place. That is why I began this blog.

I copy news articles pertaining to research, news and information for Parkinson's disease, Dementia, the Brain, Depression and Parkinson's with Dystonia. I also post about Fundraising for Parkinson's disease and events. I try to be up-to-date as possible.

I am not responsible for it's contents. I am just a copier of information searched on the computer. Please understand the copies are just that, copies and at times, I am unable to enlarge the wording or keep it uniformed as I wish.

This is for you to read and to always keep an open mind.

Please discuss this with your doctor, should you have any questions, or concerns.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Aberrant Astrocytes May Lead to Parkinson’s, Other Neurodegerative Diseases


Astrocytes are brain cells usually known for their protective role toward neurons in various conditions, such as stroke and spinal cord injury. Researchers have now found they also can exert a damaging effect in neurons under certain circumstances and lead to several diseases, such as Parkinson’s.
The research work establishes that astrocytes turn bad in the presence of certain inflammatory molecules produced by microglia, immune cells with a crucial role in the defense of the central nervous system.
The study, “Neurotoxic Reactive Astrocytes Are Induced By Activated Microglia,” was published in the journal Nature.
“We’ve learned astrocytes aren’t always the good guys,” Ben Barres, MD, PhD and senior author of the study, said in a news release. “An aberrant version of them turns up in suspicious abundance in all the wrong places in brain-tissue samples from patients with brain injuries and major neurological disorders from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to multiple sclerosis. The implications for treating these diseases are profound.”
He believes that therapeutic approaches that target the conversion of astrocytes into “the bad guys” or that block their damage in neurons may be efficient to stop the development of neurological diseases.
Previous studies by Barres and his team had shown that there are two types of reactive astrocytes, which they named A1 and A2. While A1 astrocytes produce large amounts of inflammatory molecules, A2, which are induced by strokes, for example, produce molecules that help the affected neurons survive.
Researchers found that the presence of LPS, a molecule produced by bacteria, induced the conversion of normal astrocytes into the A1 type, thereby promoting inflammation. They also found that microglia, the brain’s immune cells that are also activated by LPS, could induce astrocytes’ transformation into the A1 type by releasing inflammatory molecules.
In the new study, the team used mice to identify molecules produced by microglia that change astrocytes’ behavior in the presence of LPS: TNF-alpha, IL-1-alpha, and C1q. While each of these substances could partially induce A1 astrocytes, when combined, they promote the complete transformation of astrocytes. When fully formed, A1 astrocytes no longer feed and protect neurons, but instead kill them.
In another experiment, researchers used retina cells that only survive in culture when surrounded by astrocytes that feed and protect them. They saw that in the presence of normal astrocytes, these retina cells would growth and mature, but in the presence of A1 astrocytes, they would become weak and faulty. These neurons would even die when in the presence of increasing amounts of the killing molecules produced by A1 astrocytes.
Similar results were seen when other types of neurons, such as dopaminergic neurons (whose loss is involved in Parkinson’s disease), were put in contact with A1 astrocytes’ products.
Importantly, researchers found that mice in which the optic nerves had been damaged (a trigger that kills retina cells) had increased amounts of A1 astrocytes, but that inhibiting TNF-alpha, IL-1-alpha, and C1q with antibodies prevented A1 formation and protected these neurons.
Brain samples from patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis were also found to have high quantities of A1 astrocytes that accumulated in the regions most affected by the disease.
Researchers are currently trying to identify exactly which molecules produced by A1 astrocytes have the observed killing effect in neurons.
“We’re very excited by the discovery of neurotoxic reactive astrocytes,” Barres said, “because our findings imply that acute injuries of the retina, brain and spinal cord and neurodegenerative diseases may all be much more highly treatable than has been thought.”

Friday, January 20, 2017

NHS-funded Parkinson’s app improves meds adherence

January 20, 2017

Apps that help Parkinson’s patients track and manage their symptoms resulted in better adherence and quality of clinical consultations, according to a new study carried out by the NHS.
The study, funded by the NHS’ Small Business Research Initiative and published in Nature Parkinson’s, enrolled a total of 215 people with Parkinson’s disease – half of which were equipped with the uMotif smartphone app for 16 weeks.
For the NHS, the findings back up its decision to make the uMotif app available to patients back in 2015. The app is estimated to save around £20 million per year in NHS costs.
The app allows patients to create health reports by compiling data gathered from wearables, a daily diary filled in by the user and results from cognitive games. This report can then be shared with their clinician.
The app also notifies users when to take their medication and generates task reminders to help patients stick to their regular routine.
Researchers found that those using the app experienced a significant improvement in medication adherence (~10%) and quality of clinical consultations with their doctor based on their perception of collaboration and involvement in treatment decisions.
“These findings suggest that the PTA (Parkinson’s tracking app) can be useful in improving outcomes and processes of care in people with PD (Parkinson’s disease), similar to results seen in other chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma,” say the study authors.
Currently, follow-up periods for Parkinson’s disease patients are typically around six months. As the study authors allude to, the Parkinson’s tracking app could help improve care for patients between consultations.
Research into the area of mobile app legitimacy in managing conditions has recently led to a split opinion in regards to their true effectiveness. One study investigating Stanford Medicine’s MyHeart Counts app – built using Apple’s ResearchKit platform – found the app vastly improved trial recruitment numbers, but failed to maintain participant engagement.
Another concern is their applicability to different demographics with many people believing app technology can only be fully ‘grasped’ by younger generations. In this instance, the study authors allayed these concerns: “It should be noted that a mean age of 60 in the PTA group was not a barrier for interaction with the PTA, allaying fears that technology-based interventions are not appropriate for an older age group.”

New York Jets legend Mark Gastineau reveals he is suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and believes his tough-tackling NFL career is to blame

January 20, 2017

  • Mark Gastineau was a defensive line backer with the New York Jets in the 1980s
  • He holds the team's all-time record for the greatest number of 'sacks' 
  • He admitted he could not believe it when he received the dementia diagnosis 
  • He said he was working with young players to save them from the same fate 

Mark Gastineau, pictured, has admitted he is suffering from dementia as a result of his decade-long career in the NFL where he was a defensive line backer for the New York Jets

Gastineau, pictured in 1988, was the all-time sack record holder for the New York Jets

He made the revelations during a 30-minute interview with Pete McCarthy on WOR radio in New York. 

Gastineau is currently working along with USA Football as part of the 'Heads UP Football' campaign to improve player safety, ensuring that equipment is used properly and concussion is quickly identified. 

The former player is the Jets' all-time sacks record holder. 

He said: 'It's disturbing to the point where I want to get out and I want to help other kids and youths coming into the game. There's techniques out there that if I would have had them, I know that I wouldn't have the results that I have now.'  

Gastineau, left, said he is working with football authorities to prevent young players suffering the same fate by concentrating on correct tackling techniques and identifying concussion

I don't want (my health) to overpower or overshadow the 'Heads Up' program, I want it to be a warning to mothers and fathers to be able to put their kids in to safe places to be able to carry on a team sport that I think is going to be way far beneficial to them then if they didn't have that in their lives.' 

He added: 'I am so happy that I went through the times, the trials and things I went through in the NFL. I wouldn't trade them for anything.'

He later told the Daily News:  'When my results came back, I had dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Those were three things that I have. 

'You know, my first reaction was that I didn't believe it. I couldn't believe it. My second reaction was how can I help other people coming in to the NFL? That's what it's all about.' 

He said he was impressed by the Heads Up campaign and believes it will make a significant difference for future players. 

He said: 'The only reason I would allow my child to play is because of this I would not allow my child to play if I did not have this Heads Up Football. There's no way in the world. You cannot expect your child to not be injured if you do not enter this program. If a high school doesn't have this program, there should not be a program.'

Gastineau's ex-wife Lisa Gastineau (right) and daughter Brittny Gastineau (left) are famous for starring in the E! reality series The Gastineau Girls

Gastineau's ex-wife Lisa Gastineau and daughter Brittny Gastineau, who is a childhood friend of Kim Kardashian, are famous for starring in the E! reality series The Gastineau Girls.
He also has a son with actress Brigitte Nielsen. 



by Mia de Graaf, Assistant US Health Editor

Mark Gastineau's revelation comes amid a surge in studies investigating concussions in the National Football League and high school sports.
More and more research is linking low-impact injuries to severe diseases. 

Research published last week confirmed the strongest ever link between sports concussions and Alzheimer's disease. 

Until now, doctors only considered severe traumatic brain injury a key risk factor for developing neurodegenerative diseases.

But the new study by Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) has - for the first time - shown even low-impact injuries like concussion could have life-threatening consequences.   

They reached their conclusion by scanning the brains of 160 wounded war veterans after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Using MRI imaging, the researchers measured the thickness of their cerebral cortex in seven regions that have been pegged at the 'ground zero' for Alzheimer's disease.

They also scanned seven control regions - regions that tend not to be affected. 
They found that having a concussion was associated with lower cortical thickness in brain regions that are the first to be affected in Alzheimer's disease.
Lead author, Dr Jasmeet Hayes, said: 'Our results suggest that when combined with genetic factors, concussions may be associated with accelerated cortical thickness and memory decline in Alzheimer's disease relevant areas.' 

A study at Wake Forest School of Medicine has been examining the brains of high school football players.

One of the participants is the son of former Minnesota Vikings player Greg DeLong. 

The study published in the journal Radiology found measurable brain changes in teen players after a single season of ball - even without a concussion diagnosis.
Now DeLong is speaking out to say he would have seriously reconsidered his football career if he had known the risks.

'Football's important to us, but there are other things out there that are more important,' DeLong told Good Morning America. 

The CDC has estimated that up to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports and recreational activities each year.
But some experts wonder if those numbers underestimate total brain injuries, as some individuals may not seek treatment for mild or moderate symptoms.
The agency has applied for federal funding to create a database in order to investigate sport injuries and brain diseases more in-depth. 
Meanwhile, the state of Texas has embarked on the largest ever study into concussions. 

State officials hope to track brain injuries among high school sports to discover whether more needs to be done to improve player safety and protect athletes.
The University Interscholastic League, Texas' governing body for public high school sports, is partnering with the O'Donnell Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center for the project.

A state as large as Texas, which has more than 800,000 public high school athletes, would be a key step in developing a national database of brain injuries in youths, officials say.

Stem cell treatment shows improvement in Parkinson's, neurology patients'

ANS  |  Mumbai 

Stem cell treatments can lead to great improvement in patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, extreme pain in the groin and other neurological issues as it helps in the regeneration of tissues -- a new treatment option, said doctors on Friday.
The doctors said they reached the conclusion after two patients suffering from Parkinson's along with cervical spine issues and extreme groin pain, respectively, showed improvement to a great extent.
Pune-based Dnyaneshwar Jagtap -- a patient of Parkinson's -- was experiencing, tremors, pain and weakness. Though he was prescribed medicine for both, he suffered a relapse once medication was stopped. After repeated advice, he decided to undergo stem cell therapy which had shown to be medically effective in several cases globally.
"By the second session of treatment, body pain and weakness improved to a great extent. Tremors in the patient's hands also reduced. Blood sugar level does not fluctuate much and he feels energetic overall," said Pradeep Mahajan, regenerative medicine researcher at StemRx hospital. 
Stem-cell therapy is the use of stem cells to treat or prevent a disease or condition. Bone marrow transplant is the most widely used stem-cell therapy, but some therapies derived from umbilical cord blood are also in use.
In another case study, 35-year-old Vijay complained of extreme pain in the left hip and groin for a decade, which the doctor said could be treated through medicine. As nothing improved the medical condition, Vijay chose to undergo stem cell treatment during which he underwent three sessions of cell-based therapy. 
He was also advised physiotherapy exercises and diet modification. Follow-up was done periodically wherein clinical and radiological assessment was done. 
Mahajan said that like the earlier patient, Vijay also showed gradual improvement in clinical parameters of pain and movements. 
"Two years following the cell-based therapy, he is now pain-free and is able to perform his routine activities comfortably," said Mahajan.
Explaining the efficacy of stem cell treatment, Mahajan said: "Since these stem cells are from the patient's own body, there is no risk of rejection or side-effect. The patient is monitored regularly in order to track the progress and further treatment sessions, if required, are planned." 
"With this therapy, we also aim to discontinue the medications, which the patient is taking presently, and enable him to perform his daily living activities comfortably," added Mahajan.
According to Mahajan: "Stem cells are part of the human body and have the unique ability of naturally finding and repairing the place of damage within. Stem cell therapy also helps to fight chronic and genetic diseases."


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pesticide linked to Parkinson's disease being sold in US, already banned in Europe

Thursday, January 19, 2017 by: 

(NaturalNews) Like other pesticides, paraquat has been the subject of controversy for some time now. In Switzerland, for example, the toxic substance has been banned since 1989. The rest of the European Union has followed the Swiss’ lead, including England — even though there is still a factory there where paraquat is manufactured for export. 

Even China has phased out the use of paraquat. In 2012, the Chinese government announced that the pesticide would no longer be used in order to “safeguard people’s lives.” China is not a nation that is recognized for its environmental protection policies. If they’re concerned about this pesticide, it stands to reason we should be too.

And yet, for some reason, paraquat is still available in the United States — even in spite of the growing body of research that suggests it is an extremely harmful chemical that likely causes Parkinson’s disease.

You’d think that as Europe and China ceased to use paraquat, the US would follow suit. But instead, use of this pesticide has only begun to increase. Last year, some 7 million pounds of paraquat were used on 15 million acres of land. To make matters worse, more weeds are becoming resistant to more popular pesticides like Roundup, and paraquat is being marketed as a substitute.

The Paraquat Controversy

Paraquat first became heavily scrutinized for its use in suicide attempts; just a single sip of this stuff can be lethal. But now, a wave of research on this contentious product has shown that there are less-immediate effects of exposure to paraquat — like Parkinson’s disease.

The New York Times has even reported that the Environmental Protection Agency made note of paraquat’s toxicity in a recent regulatory filing. The EPA itself said, “There is a large body of epidemiology data on paraquat dichloride and Parkinson’s disease.” The Times writer Danny Hakim writes that the EPA is currently debating on whether or not the pesticide should still be allowed to be sprayed on our country’s farmland. A decision is not expected to be reached until sometime in 2018.

Europe is known for their cautious approach to pesticides; several bans and moratoriums on a number of different products have taken place over the years. While often criticized by industry officials, paraquat shows that caution is truly necessary when dealing with toxic chemicals — even if they supposedly not intended to be toxic to humans.

Research on paraquat and Parkinson’s disease

Perhaps what is most disturbing about paraquat is that science has indicated that the pesticide was possibly linked to Parkinson’s disease for more than twenty years. Over the last five years, however, research on the matter has grown more extensive.

In 2011, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) led a study that found two pesticides — rotenone and paraquat — were linked to a substantially higher risk of Parkinson’s disease. The study found that use of either pesticide were 2.5 times more likely to develop the condition. The research was a collaborative effort that included National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center in Sunnyvale, CA.

Freya Kamel, Ph.D. is a researcher in the intramural program at NIEHS and co-author of the paper appearing online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. She stated that “Paraquat increases production of certain oxygen derivatives that may harm cellular structures. People who used these pesticides or others with a similar mechanism of action were more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.”

A meta-analysis that was published in 2013 by the journal Neurology also found that exposure to paraquat and other similar pesticides could increase Parkinson’s disease risk. In their conclusion, the team states that current literature supports the theory that pesticide exposure increases Parkinson’s disease risk.

In 2000, which was almost 2 decades ago, research confirmed a potential link between pesticide exposure and Parkinson’s. Later, a 2006 study would show that exposure to paraquat resulted in a 70 percent higher chance of developing Parkinson’s disease. Research has been indicative of paraquat’s dangers for the last 20 years or so, and more recent research has only confirmed these suspicions.

The call to ban paraquat in the US has been a long time coming, but will the EPA listen?


Rabies viruses reveal wiring in transparent brains

January 19, 2017

Transplant of human neurons in the hippocampus of a mouse: the surrounding nerve cells in the mouse brain have connected to engrafted neurons. A green fluorescent rabies virus was used to infect the transplanted neurons (red), from where it spread backwards to surrounding synaptically connected neurons in the host brain (green). Credit: Dr. Jonas Doerr

Scientists under the leadership of the University of Bonn have harnessed rabies viruses for assessing the connectivity of nerve cell transplants: coupled with a green fluorescent protein, the viruses show where replacement cells engrafted into mouse brains have connected to the host neural network. A clearing procedure which turns the brain into a 'glass-like state' and light sheet fluorescence microscopy are used to visualize host-graft connections in a whole-brain preparation. The approach opens exciting prospects for predicting and optimizing the ability of neural transplants to functionally integrate into a host nervous system. The results have now been published in the specialist journal Nature Communications.

Many diseases and injuries result in a loss of nerve . Scientists are working on tackling this challenge by transplanting neurons. In Parkinson's disease, for instance, this is attempted with implanted . The key question for such techniques is whether the implanted cells actually connect with the existing neural network of the host brain and thus compensate the functional loss. "Previous methods only provided an incomplete or very small-scale insight into the functional integration of implanted neurons in the brain," says Prof. Oliver Brüstle from the Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology at the University of Bonn and LIFE & BRAIN GmbH.
Exploiting viral spreading across neurons
Together with scientists of various disciplines at the University of Bonn and cooperation partners from Cologne and Chicago (USA), the team led by Prof. Brüstle developed a new technique: "This enables the connection of implanted cells in the entire brain to be visualized in high resolution." The basis of this technology is provided by genetically altered rabies viruses. The researchers are exploiting the fact that these viruses spread backwards via nerve cell junctions – called synapses. The genetically altered rabies virus, which is no longer dangerous to humans, carries a fluorescent protein. Upon infection of the graft, the transplanted neurons turn green. At the same time, the 'green' virus spreads backwards across established synapses to connected host neurons, which are also turning green.
A three-dimensional nerve circuit diagram across a transparent brain
To visualize the labeled cells, the team first employed a special clearing procedure. "This technique makes it possible to turn the brains completely transparent – almost as glass," says Dr. Martin Schwarz from the Bonn Department of Epileptology, who perfected this technique. The transparent brain is then studied layer by layer, similar to computer tomography, using what is known as a light sheet fluorescence microscope, which Prof. Ulrich Kubitscheck and his team at the Institute for Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Bonn developed specifically for this purpose.
"With this technique, the brain is scanned in high resolution in over 1,000 virtual optical sections; the data is then reconstructed three-dimensionally," explains Prof. Kubitscheck. "As the implanted neurons and the recipient's  connected to them light up green, a three-dimensional brain map can be created that delineates all the recipient cells connected to the transplant – the graft connectome," says Dr. Jonas Doerr, who first-authored the study together with Martin Schwarz.
As the brain tissue itself becomes invisible after the clearing procedure, the researchers in a last step aligned the fluorescent maps with neuroanatomical data generated via magnetic resonance tomography of mouse brains. "Similar to cities on a globe, all of the cells marked in green can thus be allocated to distinct anatomical territories," says Prof. Mathias Hoehn from the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne, whose group conducted these calculations.
Great potential for the development of nerve cell transplants
"Our findings show that the transplanted neurons integrate in a remarkably region-specific manner into the different transplant sites," reports Prof. Brüstle. The researchers hope that the new approach will be particularly useful for studying and optimizing the ability of neuronal transplants to connect with the host brain before they are used for clinical therapy. As a next step, they plan to use the rabies system to investigate how human dopamine-producing cells can be best wired into the  of mice with induced Parkinson-like symptoms.
More information: Whole-brain 3D mapping of human neural transplant innervation, Prof. Oliver Brüstle, Nature CommunicationsDOI: 10.1038/ncomms14162
Journal reference: Nature Communications
Provided by: University of Bonn

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What Foods Have Dopamine to Prevent Parkinson’s Disease ?

January 2017

Parkinson’s disease is a devastating diagnosis, because while the illness is treatable, it is not curable. Parkinson’s disease is marked by progressive degradation of the nervous system, which results in symptoms including tremors, muscle stiffness, slow movements, impaired balance and changes in speech. Dopamine, a chemical produced in your brain, may have promise for treating already diagnosed Parkinson’s disease, and it may also help prevent it, although it has not been studied widely. Adding certain foods to your diet may increase your levels of dopamine, thus protecting your brain from changes that can lead to Parkinson’s disease. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet, and do not stop taking any medicines your doctor has advised for health problems.


Not only are beans loaded with fiber and low in fat, they also contain protein, a nutrient essential for high brain levels of dopamine. Beans contain a protein-based amino acid called tyrosine, which boosts the amount of dopamine in your brain. According to Joel C. Robertson and Tom Monte, authors of “Natural Prozac: Learning to Release Your Body’s Own Anti-Depressants,” 3 oz. to 4 oz. of protein is enough to significantly increase your dopamine levels and improve your brain activity. Keeping your dopamine levels high may help your brain better stave off neurological changes that can lead to Parkinson’s disease.


Eating a banana is a healthy way to add a hefty dose of potassium to your diet, but bananas also raise your dopamine levels. Adding a banana to your daily diet will help your brain produce more dopamine, which can help keep it healthy and able to resist changes that can turn into a Parkinson’s diagnosis. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation recommends adding fruits to your Parkinson’s diet, and a banana is a dopamine producing choice, Thomas S. C. Li adds in his book, “Vegetables and Fruits; Nutrition and Therapeutic Values.” Eat a banana with your morning cereal or add one to your lunchbox for two simple ways to include them in your daily diet.

Sunflower Seeds

A serving of sunflower seeds supplies you with some vitamin E, fiber and protein, but sunflower seeds also contain a substance called tryptophan, which increases your brain levels of dopamine and may help prevent Parkinson’s disease, although this has not been studied widely. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation puts seeds and nuts in its “won’t hurt and might help” category, saying they will be helpful for health in other ways. A handful of sunflower seeds included in your daily diet is a simple way to encourage your brain to produce more dopamine. Sprinkle some on a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal, or bake them into your favorite bread or muffin recipes


Nuts are an additional source of protein, but they also contain a substance called phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is associated with a significant increase in dopamine levels, and eating a handful a day may help you keep your levels high enough to help prevent brain disorders that can lead to Parkinson’s disease. Phenylalanine works like the tyrosine in beans by encouraging your brain to make more dopamine, notes Dan Silverman in his book, “Brain After Chemo.” Any type of nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans and peanuts, will help you get more phenylalanine. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation also recommends nuts as a healthy food for Parkinson’s patients, putting it on its “won’t hurt and might help”

Discovering a way to put Parkin to work

January 18, 2017

Jacob Aguirre

Researchers now know that when a gene called Parkin is damaged, it can cause the familial form of Parkinson’s disease. Parkin’s role within brain cells is critical in making sure those cells produce energy and stay healthy.

What researchers need to know more about – and what biochemist Jacob Aguirre is investigating – is the chemical structure of Parkin. At the University of Western Ontario, Aguirre, a biochemist, uses a form of imaging called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to study the structure of Parkin, right down to its foundation: Parkin’s atomic structure. Aguirre recently received a two-year, $30,000, graduate student grant from the Parkinson Canada Research Program to conduct his research.
“Our hope is that if we can get a firm understanding of Parkin’s atomic structure, that this can provide clues into its function in the cell and why these mutations are causing dysfunction for this protein, resulting in disease,” Aguirre says.
Pinpointing the chemical description of Parkin would help other researchers design new drugs that could either stimulate or block the protein’s function in brain cells.
Most researchers believe Parkin’s role is positive – that it turns on a recycling function to rid cells of damaged mitochondria, the energy producers within all cells. Aguirre, a PhD student, is focused on finding a way to activate Parkin when it is mutated, to restore that positive recycling function.
“We’re hoping that we can use a rational drug design method to come up with small molecules or drugs that might activate this protein,” Aguirre says. “This is a much more targeted form of drug discovery, rather than just serendipitous drug discovery.”
For Aguirre, the search for a drug that could address the fundamental causes of Parkinson’s disease is personal. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease affected his great-grandfather and his grandmother. He knows too well the devastating effects of these progressively debilitating illnesses.
“When you are exposed to it at a young age, it makes you really want to try to get involved in the research,” Aguirre says.
He hopes his research into Parkin’s atomic structure could not only led to new drugs but might be applied to new techniques like gene therapy.
“This has a lot of potential,” Aguirre says.
The search for new drug targets can sometimes be a frustrating quest, but he is motivated by his genuine excitement about the work and the thrill of discovery.
“It’s really an exhilarating thing to find something new,” Aguirre says. “To be able to do that in a field that I’m also personally affected by is just the cherry on the top.”
Watch our interview with Jacob Aguirre and read about other researchers recently funded by the Parkinson Canada Research Program.

Published on Dec 8, 2016
Parkinson Canada Research
Graduate Student Award
Jacob Aguirre, Western University

Promising research addresses quality of life for those living with Parkinson’s disease

January 18, 2017

Dr. Philippe Huot

An enduring fascination with the brain, and the desire for answers and solutions for his patients living with Parkinson’s, motivates Dr. Philippe Huot in his Parkinson’s research. As a Movement Disorder Neurologist at the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, he understands how patients and their families struggle with dyskinesia and hallucinations, two of many Parkinson’s disease complications.

Dr. Huot recently completed two research projects funded by the Parkinson Canada Research Program. The first is a two-year, $89,984 New Investigator Award and the second is a $45,000, one-year Lawrason Foundation Pilot Project Award. His early results have been so promising that he and three colleagues have received a three-year, $1.4 million research grant from the Weston Brain Institute to continue this research.
Huot began these investigations by studying hallucinations, a form of psychosis that affects up to 60 per cent of people with advanced Parkinson’s. These frightening experiences sometimes lead to a person needing specialized attention and ultimately living in long-term care.
“It’s a very important problem that has serious detrimental impact on patients and their caregivers’ quality of life,” says Huot.  “One patient I met had visual hallucinations and when she tried to grab something she thought she saw on the stairs, she fell and injured herself quite badly.”
Although there are other forms of psychosis, hallucinations are the most common manifestation in Parkinson’s disease, so  patient samples were available for  study, explains Huot.
He measured the levels of a protein that regulates glutamate, in post-mortem tissue samples from the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). He then compared them to samples from the brains of people who did not have Parkinson’s disease. Glutamate is an amino acid in the brain that transports signals from one brain cell to another.
He then observed the impact of psychosis-like behaviours in monkeys when modulating glutamate and blocking specific serotonin receptors at the same time. Huot demonstrated that this treatment combination was effective in reducing such behaviours.
“Basically we identified a new target and a new method to alleviate psychosis and proceeded to apply it to dyskinesia in another research project, with similar results,” says Huot. “We found that two very different conditions – psychosis and dyskinesia – could be alleviated in a similar way.”
One of the biggest challenges in treating Parkinson’s disease is finding ways to reduce dyskinesia, the involuntary movements most people eventually develop as a side effect of being treated with levodopa. Levodopa is the medication that reduces or controls stiffness, tremors and rigidity in people with Parkinson’s.
“For some people, dyskinesia can be really debilitating,” says Dr. Huot. “They cannot write. They have trouble eating. They have trouble getting dressed. It can be really disturbing and undermine their quality of life.”
Huot treated monkeys similarly to the way he had for psychosis to observe the impact on dyskinesia. The results were similarly encouraging – the approach effectively alleviated dyskinesia.
Huot will submit abstracts on both research projects for the Movement Disorders Society conference to be held in June 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia and for the Society for Neuroscience conference to be held in November 2017 in Washington D.C.  He has also presented his research findings to his colleagues at The Neuro in Montreal.
Huot is grateful for the funding he received from the Parkinson Canada Research Program. “It is very difficult to get that first research grant,” he says. “The funding I received from Parkinson Canada has been critical. It launched my research program. I could not have pursued this research without the investment from Parkinson Canada and its donors.”
The results from his Parkinson Canada-funded projects also made it possible for him to successfully apply for and receive a substantial $1.4 million grant from the Weston Brain Institute to continue his research.
“I hope that we will have drug treatments to alleviate psychosis and dyskinesia from Parkinson’s disease in clinical trials within the next five to six years,” says Huot.
And while Huot’s research is focused on new treatments to improve the quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s, he agrees that all research that expands our knowledge of the disease advances the search for a cure.
“Until then, I am pleased to be making a contribution to help the patients I see every day in the clinic and offer them hope for an improved quality of life.”
To learn about the most recent Parkinson Canada Research Program funding recipients, visit the Researchsection at