Top 10 Parkinson’s Disease Stories of 2017
Throughout the past year, Parkinson’s News Today has brought you news on Parkinson’s disease treatment development, clinical trials, research, and events. As we look forward to bringing you more news in 2018, we would like to sum up 2017 by bringing you the Top 10 Parkinson’s disease stories that were most popular with our readers.
While midbrain dopamine neurons are the focus of most Parkinson’s disease research, this study showed that visual and touch stimuli can trigger dopamine release in neurons in the frontal part of the brain in zebrafish. This changed certain behaviors in the animals. Since these neurons connect to other parts of the brain, researchers suggested that stimulating this group of neurons also may impact motor control in Parkinson’s patients.
A synthetic version of a molecule called squalamine, derived from dogfish sharks, was seen as a way to prevent the aggregation of the Parkinson’s disease-related protein alpha-synuclein. The compound also reduced the toxicity of the aggregates — known to prevent dopamine neurons from functioning and ultimately contributing to their death. In a worm model of the disease, the compound prevented paralysis caused by alpha-synuclein clustering. Researchers now are preparing a clinical trial of the compound in Parkinson’s patients.
An implant of encapsulated spinal fluid-producing brain cells from pigs may become a Parkinson’s disease-modifying treatment, researchers reported in May 2017. A Phase 2 clinical trial found the implant (called NTCELL) safe. Once the NTCELL capsules are placed in the brain, the cells produce cerebrospinal fluid, which contains nerve growth factors and other protective molecules. A newer report showed that the four treated patients continued to improve.
The discovery shows that a naturally occurring protein, called Nrf2, is capable of clearing excess misfolded proteins, believed to trigger Parkinson’s disease neurodegeneration. Researchers found that higher levels of Nrf2 made the Parkinson’s-related protein LRRK2 less toxic, and degraded alpha-synuclein. Researchers are now looking for ways to manipulate Nrf2 to harness its therapeutic potential.
This study found that changes in brain areas dealing with vision, as well as vision abnormalities, may be one of the earliest signs of Parkinson’s disease. The changes appear up to a decade before motor symptoms emerge, which made scientists suggest that such changes may be used to aid in early diagnosis, and possibly serve as a marker of disease progression.
No. 5 — “In Accidental Discovery, Antibiotic Doxycycline Prevents Nerve Cell Damage in Mice with Parkinson’s”
One of the more exciting discoveries of 2017 was that the common antibiotic doxycycline prevented nerve cell damage in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. The antibiotic acted to prevent damage from alpha-synuclein protein aggregates, and researchers said they have high hopes that the same effect will be seen in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
In an unusual event, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Xadago (safinamide) for the treatment of so-called off-episodes in Parkinson’s disease patients taking levodopa or carbidopa. Off episodes are the re-emergence of symptoms when the effect of dopamine-boosting drugs wane. Xadago was the first approval of a Parkinson’s medication in more than 10 years.
Last year’s third most-read story was yet another attempt to contain the damaging actions of alpha-synuclein. A vaccine, developed by AFFiRiS’s, was found safe and well-tolerated in a Phase 1 clinical trial. The vaccine intends to trigger an immune response to clear alpha-synuclein from the brain.
The first study to map out the order in which symptoms appear in Parkinson’s disease found that people who later developed Parkinson’s started having problems with everyday living activities as early as seven years before their diagnosis. Five years before their diagnosis they started showing motor problems, including typical Parkinson’s symptoms such as imbalance, rigidity, and an abnormal posture. Meanwhile, daily activities became increasingly challenging. Knowing the sequence at which symptoms appear may allow doctors to diagnose the disease earlier, and manage it in a better way, researchers said.
A clinical trial of neural stem cell transplants as a Parkinson’s treatment received, by far, the most attention in 2017. The Phase 1 study (NCT02452723), which is ongoing, explores the safety of the stem treatment, called ISC-hpNSC. The cells are not intended to replace lost dopamine-producing neurons. Rather, they produce nerve growth and neuroprotective factors that support and protect the remaining neurons in patients with mild-to-moderate disease. While the trial is still recruiting participants, the first treated patients experienced disease improvement by the end of 2017.
Parkinson’s News Today will continue to bring you updates on Parkinson’s disease treatment development and research throughout 2018, enabling you to stay ahead of developments in the field.
We wish all our readers a happy and inspiring 2018.