The Weekly 08.23.22

Parkinson’s News Updates
Photo by Hamza Bounaim on Unsplash

Sleep Problems in Parkinson’s May Be Linked to Certain Medications Parkinson’s News Today

Sleep disturbances are common in people with diseases marked by alpha-synuclein buildup, but they are especially problematic among Parkinson’s disease patients on dopaminergic medications, a study suggests.
Parkinson’s patients tend to have more arousals during sleep and fewer normal sleep cycles than people with isolated rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder or dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), data show. However, these differences were no longer significant when accounting for the potential influence of medications.

The study, “Sleep stability in isolated rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia with Lewy bodies,” was published in Acta Neurologica Scandinavica.
Parkinson’s disease and DLB are often considered to lie on the same continuum of disorders marked by toxic buildup of the alpha-synuclein protein in the brain. While they share common symptoms, including movement and cognitive impairments, cognitive problems tend to develop more quickly in DLB.

Both conditions are marked by sleep disruptions, including REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).


Blood-brain Barrier Signaling Found to Help Regulate Nerve Activity Parkinson’s News Today

The activity of a molecular signaling pathway called Delta/Notch in cells of the blood-brain barrier is important for regulating the electrical function of nerve cells, according to a new study using fruit flies.
The research, scientists say, could have implications for understanding neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, which are often characterized by dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier that helps protect brain cells.

“We are finding that the [blood-brain] barrier is not just a protective check but also a source of regulation,” Pejmun Haghighi, PhD, a professor at Buck Institute and co-author of the study, said in a press release.
“It can cause problems rather than simply being a byproduct of neurodegeneration. We are learning now that there is definitely a two-way street,” Haghighi said.

The study, “Delta/Notch signaling in glia maintains motor nerve barrier function and synaptic transmission by controlling matrix metalloproteinase expression,” was published in PNAS.
As the name suggests, the blood-brain barrier, or BBB, acts like a cellular wall that prevents certain substances from blood from passing into the brain — this helps protect delicate brain cells from infection, and keep conditions just right for neurological functioning. Beyond this basic function, however, little is known about the BBB’s role in health and disease.

“What we know currently about the blood-brain barrier is mostly that we don’t know much beyond the basics,” Haghighi said.


New Roadmap of Dopaminergic Neurons May Improve Cell Therapy Parkinson’s News Today

Scientists have created a roadmap of the maturation steps of dopaminergic neurons — the nerve cells progressively lost in Parkinson’s disease — from human stem cells.

Their work may help identify potential ways to optimize this process in the lab for new Parkinson’s cell therapies.

“Our findings provide valuable resources for identifying gene expression patterns … and can be utilized to guide human [dopaminergic neuron] differentiation,” the researchers wrote.

The new model was detailed in “Single-cell transcriptomics reveals the cell fate transitions of human dopaminergic progenitors derived from hESCs,” a study published in the journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy.
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the progressive loss of dopaminergic, or dopamine-producing, neurons in a midbrain region of the brain called the substantia nigra. Dopamine is a major chemical messenger in the brain.

5 books About Parkinson’s Disease to add to Your Summer Reading List Parkinson’s Life

1. ‘Penned Poetry for Parkinson’s Research’ compiled by Miller Caldwell

In ‘Penned Poetry for Parkinson’s Research’, readers are encouraged to “enter the world of the poets’ creative minds”. Compiled by Scottish author Miller Caldwell, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2021, the collection features poetic contributions from people living with Parkinson’s around the world. Its proceeds will be donated to the charity Parkinson’s UK to support research into the condition.

2. ‘Walking Through Honey: My journey with Parkinson’s disease’ by Brian Sherman

After working in various high-ranking business roles over a career that spanned five decades, Australia-based Brain Sherman was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. ‘Walking Through Honey’ details Sherman’s experiences of the condition over the past 10 years – and the effect it has had on him.

3.  ‘Mary & Me’ by Robyn Cotton

Split between 19th-century England and the present day, ‘Mary & Me’ follows the story of two women living with Parkinson’s 200 years apart. Inspired by the experiences of the author, New Zealand-based Robyn Cotton, the novel offers a personal illustration of life with Parkinson’s. Its proceeds go to the charity Parkinson’s New Zealand, which aims to provide information and professional support to people living with the condition.

4. ‘The Jaguar’ by Sarah Holland-Batt

Noted Australian poet Sarah Holland-Batt has made headlines in the last year for highlighting issues surrounding aged care quality and safety in her home country. Driven by her father’s own experience with Parkinson’s, ‘The Jaguar’ is a “deeply humane” poetry collection that paints a portrait of his journey with the condition – and her grief following his death in 2020.

5. ‘Drivin’ Daughters and Parkinson’s’

Drivin’ Daughters and Parkinson’s’ shares UK author Marco Preshevski’s “rollercoaster” experience of Parkinson’s since his diagnosis in 2001, when he was 30 years old. With intimate detail, it explores the challenges he has faced and how he was able to overcome them. Described as “hilarious, wholly inspirational and at times difficult to believe”, the book offers a “fresh look” at life with the condition – and lessons for those wanting to learn more about Parkinson’s.