Tears May Be Used as Biological Marker to Detect Parkinson’s Disease

By Jose Marques Lopes, PhD

Tears may be used to diagnose Parkinson’s disease, according to preliminary findings of a study that will be presented at the 2018 American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, California, April 21-27.

“We believe our research is the first to show that tears may be a reliable, inexpensive and noninvasive biological marker of Parkinson’s,” Mark Lew, MD, the study’s author from the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California, said in a press release.

Parkinson’s disease is mainly characterized by selective loss of neurons that produce dopamine in a brain area called substantia nigra. Patients with Parkinson’s typically exhibit Lewy bodies – protein clumps mainly composed of aggregated alpha-synuclein – in the brain, leading to nerve damage and disease progression.

Besides pathological changes in the brain, the disease also affects nerve function in the periphery. As the secretory cells of the tear gland are stimulated by nerves, researchers hypothesized that nerve changes in Parkinson’s could result in altered protein levels in tears.

The scientists collected tear samples from 55 Parkinson’s patients and 27 healthy controls who were the same age and gender.

The tears were analyzed for the levels of four proteins. The results revealed that levels of normal, non-clumped alpha-synuclein were lower in Parkinson’s patients than in controls. However, levels of unhealthy, aggregated alpha-synuclein were increased in tears of Parkinson’s patients (1.45 nanograms per milligram of tear proteins versus 0.27 nanograms, respectively).

Researchers hypothesize that the secretory cells in the tear gland could themselves produce these different forms of alpha-synuclein, which would be secreted directly into tears.

“Knowing that something as simple as tears could help neurologists differentiate between people who have Parkinson’s disease and those who don’t in a noninvasive manner is exciting,” Lew said.

“And because the Parkinson’s disease process can begin years or decades before symptoms appear, a biological marker like this could be useful in diagnosing, or even treating, the disease earlier,” he added.

Nonetheless, larger studies need to be done to evaluate whether these changes in alpha-synuclein levels can be detected in tears from Parkinson’s patients before symptoms start.

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Source:: Parkinson’s Today

Naked Art to celebrate Valentine’s, raise money for local causes

PAA is thrilled to be the beneficiary of a Parkinson’s Patients Art Show, hosted by Naked Art Gallery. Below is a great article from Iron City Ink that details the personal connection between Parkinson’s Disease and Vero Vanblaere, owner of the Naked Art Gallery.

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Source: Iron City Ink

Parkinson’s Foundation Enrolls 10,000th Patient in Largest Clinical Trial of the Disease Ever

By Carolina Henriques

The Parkinson’s Foundation has enrolled the 10,000th patient in the largest clinical trial of the disease yet to be conducted.

Among the critical discoveries so far, the research has shown that regular visits to neurologists, more exercise, and more attention to mental health could help improve patients’ wellbeing.

The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project is evaluating a broad range of factors associated with the disease, including medications, treatments, movement symptoms, cognition, anxiety and depression, and the disorder’s burden on caregivers.

Launched in 2009, the project has become a comprehensive platform for studying the lives of Parkinson’s patients. And it has led to the formation of a consortium of 29 experts in five countries.

The study includes over 100 people who have lived with Parkinson’s for more than 30 years and 83 who learned about their diagnosis before they were 30 years old. Its records include 25,000 visits to doctors and information from almost 9,000 caregivers.

Key conclusions drawn from the study include:

Regular visits to neurologists should be a priority for patients and caregivers because it could save thousands of lives a year.

Recent research has listed regular visits to a neurologist as an important step in Parkinson’s management. However, in a 2011 study, only 58 percent of 138,000 Parkinson’s-related difficulties led to neurologist care. Race was a significant demographic predictor of neurologist treatment, with non-whites being less likely to receive care.

Doctors should give patients’ physical activity more attention because studies have shown that increasing exercise and movement to at least 2 1/2 hours a week can slow the decline in patients’ quality of life.

Researchers have found that, in Parkinson’s, it’s not the type of exercise a patient engages in, but the frequency of the workout that’s important. Physical therapists recommend exercises whose goals include improving balance and coordination, flexibility, endurance, and strength.

Patient’s mental health should be a priority because researchers have found that depression and anxiety are leading factors in patients’ overall health.

Depression is one of the most common non-movement symptoms of the disease, with up to 60 percent of patients affected at one time or another.

Finally, doctors should do a better job of addressing gender differences between patients. A key reason is that many men can rely on wives and other family members for daily support and doctor visits. Women are less likely to have family caregiver support and be more frequent users of formal, paid caregiver services.

This discovery is supported by recent findings that confirm these gender disparities, such as a study in Neurology in 2017.

“We have obtained a wealth of information in what now represents the broadest and most inclusive patient population ever assembled in a clinical study of Parkinson’s,” Peter Schmidt, the senior vice president of the Parkinson’s Foundation, said in a press release. He has been directing the study.

“This project is truly innovative in that it not only follows thousands of patients over time, but that it studies everyone with Parkinson’s, from the newly diagnosed to people who have lived with the disease for 30 years or more,” added Thomas Davis, the study’s co-chair.

Researchers have been using the Parkinson’s Foundation’s Centers of Excellence network of 42 medical centers to enroll patients in the study.

In addition, “we are studying the quality of Parkinson’s care delivered at our Centers of Excellence to help patients who aren’t being seen at one,” said Fernando Cubillos, who oversees the study’s operations. “Our goal is to help identify the best care and disseminate that information widely.”

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Source:: Parkinson’s Today

Laser Shoes Help Prevent Parkinson’s Patients from Freezing in Place While Walking

By Carolina Henriques

Dutch researchers have developed laser shoes to help Parkinson’s patients overcome a brain disconnect that causes them to stop walking when they want to keep going.

Lasers attached to each shoe give patients a visual cue of where they need to go. Without a visual cue, the brain disconnect often leads to patients freezing in place while walking. The freezes, which can last from several seconds to several minutes, increase the chance of a patient falling.

The lasers that the Dutch team added to the tops of shoes project lines on the floor that provide patients with the visual cues they need. The lasers work in sync with each other. One projects a line until the patient takes a step along that line. Then the laser on the other shoe projects a line.

Researchers published a study on the shoes in the journal Neurology. The title of the article is “The laser-shoes – a new ambulatory device to alleviate freezing of gait in Parkinson’s disease.

A debilitating symptom of Parkinson’s, freezing episodes are also dangerous. Because a patient’s foot remains on the floor while their upper body continues moving forward, it is easy for them to lose their balance and fall.

Dr. Murielle Ferraye and her colleagues at the University of Twente and Raboud University say the shoes reduced wearers’ freezing episodes by 46 percent. And when freezes did occur, the shoes cut the duration of the episodes in half.

Walking problems are most likely to occur when patients fail to take their medication on time. Not surprisingly, the researchers said the shoes provide the biggest benefit in these cases.

Parkinson’s patients can sometimes find visual cues such as street-crossing lines to help them walk. Inside their home, they can use floor tiles as cues. The laser shoes will provide them with cues all the time, indoors or out, the researchers said.

How do the visual clues work? By looking at objects on the floor, patients can activate circuits in their brain that overcome the disconnects that cause the freezing episodes.

“Our tests were administered in a controlled lab setting with and without medication,” Ferraye said in a University of Twente news story. Further research in their [patients’] everyday environment is necessary.

“Of the 19 patients who tested the shoes, the majority would be happy to use them,” she said. “The patients did not seem to mind that the laser was activated for each single step. Ideally, the laser should only be activated once the blockage is detected, but we’re not quite there yet. Freezing is a very complex phenomenon.”

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Source:: Parkinson’s Today

The Evolution of Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

By Wendy Henderson

In this video from TIME, learn about the evolution of Parkinson’s disease treatment since the late 1950s. Vice president of media communications for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Dr. Rachel Dolhun, discusses how treatment for the disease has developed over the years.

MORE: How does Parkinson’s disease affect the brain?

Dr. Dolhun explains that while the diagnosis procedure for Parkinson’s disease hasn’t changed too much since the 1950s, the way the disease is treated has changed substantially. Back then, there were no treatments for Parkinson’s disease and now there are many treatments to help with the symptoms of the condition. In addition, five new treatments are currently in clinical trials that may slow or stop the progression of the disease.

As well as medications, surgeries such as deep brain stimulation have help modern day Parkinson’s patients overcome some of the more pronounced symptoms of the disease.

MORE: Three causes of psychosis in Parkinson’s disease

Parkinsons’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Source:: Parkinson’s Today