Judson Haims: Continued research is furthering cure for Parkinson’s Disease
Special to The Aspen Times
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement. While it most often occurs later in life, it can begin earlier on. In the U.S., PD affects about 1 million people — 4% of which may be people younger than the age of 50.
At this time, there is no cure nor is there a treatment that may slow the progression. Rather, there are only medications that treat symptoms like a shuffling gait and movement disorders.
Some of the most frequent movement disorders are called dyskinesia where muscles contract involuntarily causing jerky, rapid and twitch-like movements and dystonia, a condition that presents itself in sustained or repetitive twisting or tightening of muscle.
The specific cause of PD is not known. However, researchers believe that genetics and/or environmental factors play significant roles. About 15% of people with PD have a family history of the condition, which results from genetic mutations in various groups of genes. Environmental factors such as pesticides, herbicides, exposures to various metals (zinc and copper) and head injuries also may also contribute to PD onset.
The University of Bath, located in Bath U.K., best explains Parkinson’s in detail: “Parkinson’s Disease is characterized by a specific protein in human cells ‘misfolding’, where it becomes aggregated and malfunctions. The protein — alpha-synuclein (αS) — is abundant in all human brains. After misfolding, it accumulates in large masses, known as Lewy bodies. These masses consist of αS aggregates that are toxic to dopamine-producing brain cells, causing them to die. It is this drop in dopamine signaling that triggers the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, as the signals transmitting from the brain to the body become noisy, leading to the distinctive tremors seen in sufferers.”
New research suggests that defects in the blood-brains may have much to do with the development of Parkinson’s. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) prevents materials from the blood from entering the brain. Normally, the BBB acts as a vital filter that protects the brain against harmful toxins. When functioning properly, it allows nutrients to pass through and provide nourishment and detoxification.
When the BBB is not functioning properly, it may cause toxins to become trapped withing the brain and may also allow inflammatory cells and molecules in that cause damage. Further, BBB disfunctions may impede glucose and other nutrients from entering.
At Georgetown University, researchers have recently found that a drug used to treat leukemia called, nilotinib, may assist in motor and nonmotor decline in PD patients. The article, “Vascular Defects Appear to Underlie the Progression of Parkinson’s Disease” is well worth taking the time to read. Another article found in Nov. 12 publication of Neurology Genetics addresses how advances in technology has enabled scientist to better understand MicroRNAs (miRNAs) — a form of single-stranded RNA which is thought to regulate the expression of other genes. This article is a somewhat technical read, but quite educational for those interested in learning about the latest scientific breakthroughs. An easier to read synopsis of this article can be found in Medical News Today titled, “Blood-brain barrier changes may explain Parkinson’s disease progression.”
Slowing the progression
Keeping mobile may be one of the best defenses against slowing the progression of PD side effects. Daily exercise plays an extremely important role in not only slowing the disease but also in maintaining one’s ability to participate in daily activities and socialization. Consider walking, strength training, yoga, tai-chi, and palates.
Research also promotes awareness of one’s gut microbiome. Many studies indicate that compared to people without PD, people with PD exhibit elevated levels of the microbiome Lactobacillaceae and Verrucomicrobiaceae, and a decrease in the family Prevotellaceae. Balancing gut microbiome plays an important role in many health-related concerns. Before you buy any probiotic that may modify microbiome within the gut, consult your medical provider. They can interfere with medication(s) you take. If you are interested in learning more about the correlation between PD and gut microbiome, read an article from the American Parkinson Disease Association titled, “PD and the microbiome.”
Fabulous new developments are happening in the research of PD. Educate yourself by going online and learn about what’s happening.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.