Expert: The Latest Parkinson’s Disease Therapies Will Affect Us All


Most of what goes on in our bodies is fairly well understood today, except the brain. There are 100 billion neurons in the brain of varying types and over 100 trillion connections between those neurons. They are responsible for everything you do and are, but are still largely a mystery.
Now, recent developments have given scientists a more thorough understanding of various neurological disorders, which in turn have revealed insights into how our brains work. They have also lead to novel treatments that many researchers believe will be widely available to people with Parkinson’s within the next five to 10 years. But this will, in essence, just be a ‘Version 1.0’ of these therapies, so to speak. As we perfect these techniques they will be applied to other diseases, allowing us to cure a host of neurological ailments in ‘Version 2.0’ (just 10 to 20 years down the road) and eventually allowing us to augment the intelligence and abilities of otherwise seemingly healthy individuals in ‘Version 3.0’ (20 to 30 years out). It could even allow us to reverse aging.
But let’s back up a minute add see where we are and how we could get there.


Through the study and treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS, scientists learned that when neurons die off, or chemical signals are no longer produced beyond a certain threshold, problems arise. In Parkinson’s disease for instance, symptoms do not emerge until at least 50-80 percent of the dopamine producing neurons in specific parts of the brain have died – yet every human’s brain deteriorates over time. The spread of free radicals and accumulation of misfolded proteins that occur from the simple act of eating and breathing leads to cell death.
Every single one of us has different amounts of healthy neurons in different arrangements, and this is the reason why there is such variety in people’s cognitive abilities. The application of treatments being developed today to fix deficiencies in people with various diseases could one day be used in people who simply have sub-optimal levels of a particular neuron in a particular part of the brain.
The neurodegeneration that leads to neurological diseases is a by-product of the natural aging process. Increasing awareness and understanding of the factors that contribute to aging have lead to a growing number of people in the medical community believing that we can intervene in this process and halt or even reverse aging altogether.
Novel therapies are being worked on to address these problems. Some of the most exciting include stem cell transplantation, gene modification therapies, and neuromodulation through brain-machine interfaces. All of these techniques are in their nascent stage and will see continual improvements over the years to come. It is conceivable that, once perfected, seemingly healthy people will be able to walk into a clinic, get their brains scanned, get a readout of exactly what parts of their brains have sub-optimal levels, and opt to augment those levels through one or more of the various techniques mentioned above.
And who are the big players who will likely bring these remarkable changes to life?

Up till now, the tools available for understanding and diagnosing most diseases have been woefully inadequate, and funding for ambitious research has been lacking. Today, there is more money being poured into such research and more people working on tackling these problems than ever.

The most promising projects come from the European human brain project and the U.S. brain initiative, which are trying to do for the brain what the human genome project did for our understanding of the genome. In addition there has been an immense burst in funding for projects from private institutions like the Google developed Calico labs, the Paul Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Zuckermen Mind, Brain and Behavior Institute, the Gladstone Institute, the American Federation for Aging Research, the Buck Institute, Scripps and SENS, to name a few – not to mention all the new work being done in universities and for-profit companies throughout the world.


Then there is the application of machine learning to our understanding of disease. The reason why we have been unable to combat many of the diseases that are still with us today is that, for each one of them, there are simply too many factors involved for any individual or group of people to adequately grasp. However, the advent of techniques such as neural networks and their application to big data will give us access to tools that are able to take in all the factors involved and output a far more accurate description of the problems we face.
All of these efforts, together with a newfound understanding that aging itself should be classified a disease, lead many experts in the field to believe we will make more progress in the next 10 years than we made in the last 100 years combined.
While we should continue to be skeptical of the various bold proclamations made by a growing number of researchers who believe that diseases, and aging in general, will soon be a thing of the past, there is reason to believe that it is possible. In the years to come, new tools and techniques, along with the application of machine learning, will allow researchers to probe even deeper into the human mind, with many believing that it is only a matter of time before we have a complete picture.

Parkinson’s Disease Vs. Essential Tremor Early Symptoms, How They Differ

As many as one million Americans currently live with Parkinson’s disease and approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed each year. Around the world, more than 10 million people worldwide are living with the disease, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

A new study published in the journal  Brain has shed new light on the genetics behind essential tremor, which is frequently misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. Understanding the differences between both diseases is key to reducing the prevalence of medical mistakes. Here’s everything you need to know about both diseases.



Around the world, nearly one percent of the population suffers from essential tremor. But looking at the 40-years-and-older population, the statistic jumps to four percent. According to the Mayo Clinic, essential tremor also has a large genetic component, which puts those who have a parent with the genetic mutation at a 50 percent greater chance of developing the disorder themselves. The most common symptom is involuntary shaking of hands, although some people can also experience shaking of the head and legs.

“Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder, but many sufferers don’t seek medical help,” said the study’s lead author Simon Girard, a professor at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi in Canada, in a press release. “People suffer from the tremor, but they tend to make do as best they can. Some people have had a tremor for 10 to 20 years or more. They know they have a tremor and they live with it.”

In order to further explore the lesser known disorder, researchers examined the genetic sequencing for a group of 2,809 patients and identified a strong correlation between the condition and a gene known as STK32B. Moving forward, the team hopes to recruit 10,000 additional essential tremor sufferers to further understand the condition and genetics behind it.


In some cases, Parkinson’s disease is genetic but in most instances the disorder is not hereditary. Health experts have said that exposure to chemicals in the environment may also play an important role in the root cause of the disease. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, it can be difficult to tell if you have the disease because it starts off subtle and then gradually worsens overtime. First, your handwriting may have suddenly gotten much small than it was in the past and then the letter sizes change drastically. The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, shaking, loss of smell, trouble with sleeping, dizziness, fainting, and difficulty walking or even moving. By working with a neurologist, those who suffer from essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease can develop a specialized plan in order to reduce the severity of symptoms.

Neural network

Parkinson’s Disease Breakthrough Could ‘Stop The Condition In Its Tracks’

New research by scientists at the University of Leicester has provided a breakthrough in understanding the origins of Parkinson’s disease which could eventually lead to a cure.

The scientists have discovered that the area of a cell responsible for correctly assembling key proteins could play much more significant role in the disease than previously thought.

It had originally been though that Parkinson’s occurs when the power source for cells malfunctions.

It now turns out that the majority of the problem lies in another part of the cell called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).

The ER’s job is to fold vital proteins that are used by the cell, if it malfunctions the cell will halt production of these proteins and ultimately die.

By genetically modifying fruit flies to develop Parkinson’s, the scientists were actually able to correct this malfunction.

Dr Miguel Martins, lead researcher on the project, said: “By identifying and preventing ER stress in a model of the disease it was possible for us to prevent neurodegeneration.”

“Lab experiments, like this, allow us to see what effect ER stress has on Parkinson’s disease.”

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that affects one in every 500 people in the UK.

Traditionally people over the age of 50 get Parkinson’s but there are cases where younger people get it too.

Claire Bale, Head of Research Communications and Engagement at Parkinson’s UK commented on the new study and is hopeful of what it could mean in the future.


“Parkinson’s occurs due to a loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain. The symptoms of Parkinson’s emerge when around 70% of cells have been lost.” she said.

“This research provides new insights into the significance of the role of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the potential order of events that happens when a brain cell starts to malfunction and die.

“Identifying a way to prevent losing precious dopamine-producing cells in a fly model could translate to new and better treatments for Parkinson’s.

“This would have the potential to slow or stop the condition in its tracks, which no treatment for Parkinson’s can currently do.”

Foods Not to Eat With Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease that causes trembling, rigidity, slowed movement and poor coordination in an estimated 1 million people in the United States, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Although no known cure exists, medications, psychotherapy and dietary changes may help manage your symptoms and lower your risk for potential complications. A healthy diet improves your energy levels and overall quality of life. For best results, seek specified guidance from your doctor or dietitian.

Enriched Flour

The process used to produce enriched flour strips the original grain of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Increased fiber intake may help alleviate constipation, which often accompanies Parkinson’s disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. To increase the fiber content of your diet, replace enriched breads, pasta, cereals and snack foods with 100 percent whole grain equivalents. Nutritious whole grains include barley, oats, brown rice, wild rice, bulgur, whole wheat and air-popped popcorn.

Excessive Protein-Rich Foods

Protein provides amino acids that promote lean tissue growth and repair and proper brain function. Although protein plays an important role in most diets, eating more than modest amounts interfere with the Parkinson’s disease medication levodopa in some people, according to dietitian affiliated with the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Karol Traviss. Foods particularly high in protein include meat, fish and dairy products, such as milk and cottage cheese. Because dairy products and fish are valuable sources of calcium and vitamin D, which are important for preventing osteoporosis, incorporate modest amounts into your meals routinely. When consuming meat, Traviss recommends limiting your portion to roughly the size of a deck of cards. Limiting protein-rich foods early in the day in particular may also help prevent medication-related problems.

Fava Beans

Fava beans are a nutritious legume variety that benefits some people with Parkinson’s disease and causes problems for others. Because they contain a natural form of levodopa, eating fava beans, particularly in large quantities, may lead to an overdose. The UMMC recommends discussing fava beans with your doctor before adding them to your diet. Other legume varieties, such as kidney beans, split-peas, navy beans and lentils, are safe alternatives to fava beans and provide less fat and protein than meats, while supplying rich amounts of fiber.

Added Sugars

Added sugars contribute calories and sweet flavor but few nutrients. A sugar-rich diet leaves little room for beneficial foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and leads to weight gain when indulged in excess. Maintaining a healthy body weight and eating primarily healthy foods are important for Parkinson’s disease patients. To avoid excessive sugar intake, keep your kitchen well-stocked with healthy fare and limit processed snack foods, such as candy, cookies and soft drinks. Other common sources of added sugars include pancake syrup, jellies, jam, pastries, frozen desserts and pie.


This Woman Riding A Horse For A Final Time Will Make You Weep : Parkinson’s disease

Image result for This Woman Riding A Horse For A Final Time Will Make You WeepA program in the Netherlands is in the business of granting small wishes to nursing home patients. The “Hidden Desires” project, an initiative of The Care Group andGreen Cross Members Organization, aims to bring a small bit of joy to those who are dependent on care. Previous wishes granted have included bringing someone to their hometown for an ice cream cone, taking a man to a final sports game, and allowing a woman to have a beauty salon day before seeing her grandkids.

This time, the wish-recipient was an 87-year-old woman with Parkinson’s disease who was an accomplished horse rider when she was younger. Her wish was for “one last horseback ride.” Not an easy feat to arrange, as the Dutch video shows, but her smile at the end says it all.


Mind-Blowing Video Shows Cannabis’ Effects on Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

This year, news broke that more than half of British MPs are backing a call to legalize marijuana for medical use. Now, many users are coming forward to voice support for the measure. One such supporter, 55-year old, Ian Frizell, took to YouTube to demonstrate how cannabis has dramatically improved his life.

Frizell suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, which causes frightening symptoms, such as full-body tremors and Dystonia, which causes the muscles in his foot to curl over and be unusable. Frizell explains that earlier this year, he underwent brain stimulation surgery to implant a medical device that masks the effects of Parkinson’s.

Frizell said he wanted to show how even a small dose of medical marijuana takes quick and positive effects on his condition. First, he stopped taking his prescription medication, and turned off his brain stimulation device.

“What you are seeing here is my Parkinson’s tremor with absolutely no medication whatsoever. I cannot tolerate the prescription medication for Parkinson’s disease. They make me feel extremely unwell,” Ian explained.

Truth be told, about 10 seconds later, Ian began tremoring, with violent intensity. Ian then took a break to self-medicate by vaping 30mg of weed. The resutls are completely mind-blowing. Not only is Ian not tremoring, he says he feels more relaxed and his symptoms have totally subsided.

“My tremor has calmed down significantly. In fact, it’s almost completely under control. The sense of relief is overwhelming.

Frizell also explained that his Dystonia had lessoned considerably, and his voice was stronger, making it easier to get words out.  Watch the whole video, which is truly impressive, here.

There’s no doubt that cases like Frizell’s could sway Parliament’s decision to legalize medical marijuana, but what does science say about Parkinson’s and cannabis?

In 2004, The Movement Disorders Journal published a study that showed that 45.9% of Parkinson’s suffers showed mild or substantial alleviation of all their PD symptoms after medical marijuana use, 30.6% showed improvement of tremors, 44.7% showed improvement of bradykinisia, or slowness of movement. Additionally, patients who continued use for 3 months after the study showed significantly more alleviation of their symptoms.

It’s not crazy to think that cannabis could have positive results for PD sufferers: there are cannabinoid receptors in the brain’s basal ganglia, which is also an area important to Parkinson’s disease. Thus, when THC goes to the brain, it also goes to areas where Parkinson’s is present. As for UK’s legalization process, the chairman of the group leading the way towards Parliment’s approval said that the refusal to acknowlege cannabis’ medicinal value is “irrational.”


Parkinson’s Disease Moving Day: We walk for Muhammad Ali and for those who can’t

2016 has been a sad year in the Parkinson’s world. Actually they are all sad in the PD world since there’s no cure for this horrendous disease but this one is a little sadder than most. We lost Muhammad Ali. He died in June after a three decades long fight with Parkinson’s.

Ali’s foundation raised millions of dollars for Parkinson’s research. His battle with the disease raised awareness of PD every time you saw him. He was truly a champion in both the worlds of Boxing and Parkinson’s.

ali prime


These are photos of two very different Muhammad Ali’s. The first from 1965 shows him in his prime. A champion athlete standing over a fallen Sonny Liston. The second is Ali at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games. A one time Olympic Gold medalist, he now needs both hands to hold and light the Olympic flame.

There are about one million individuals with Parkinson’s in the United States. 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. One out of every four families will have a member that has Parkinson’s Disease.

Tomorrow, in Chicago is the 5th annual Parkinson’s Disease Moving Day walk. It raises money for research and awareness. The money raised also funds programs to help Parkinson’s patients throughout the area live better and more active lives.

Tomorrow, we walk to honor Ali.
Tomorrow, we walk to honor people with Parkinson’s, their caretakers and their friends & families.
Tomorrow, we walk for ourselves to show that all things are possible.

Tomorrow we walk.


Here are a couple of stories I wrote in June about the the great Ali.

Simple Eye Test Could Spot The Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

A SIMPLE eye test could spot Parkinson’s disease before symptoms emerge, British-based experts have discovered.

Changes in the retina at the back of the eye can show doctors the incurable illness is setting in and offer hope of earlier treatment.

The eye test could transform Parkinson's treatment

The eye test has the potential to transform Parkinson’s treatment

The team who made the discovery said it could be a “revolutionary breakthrough”.

They also found damage to the retina caused by Parkinson’s was reversed with a drug normally used for diabetes.

Parkinson’s, which affects 127,000 people in the UK, is caused by a shortage of the chemical dopamine in the brain.

Muhammad Ali faced his toughest fight battling the disease years before his death

Muhammad Ali had it for years before his death, while actor Bob Hoskins died from it in 2014.

Most sufferers are not diagnosed until they show symptoms like shaky hands.

But by this point more than 70 per cent of the brain’s dopamine-producing cells are destroyed.

The new eye test could identify sufferers sooner, and slow the decline.

Dr Eduardo Normando added: “It has the potential to limit and perhaps eliminate the suffering of thousands of patients, if we are able to diagnose and treat early.”


levodopa is a drug used to treat Parkinson's disease A biotech company wants to fight Parkinson’s disease with a shot of healthy DNA. Voyager Therapeutics is developing a form of gene therapy that could make drugs that have lost their edge work again in people with advanced Parkinson’s.

In Parkinson’s disease, neurons responsible for making the chemical messenger dopamine die. This leads to tremors, slowness, and rigidness. Currently, people with Parkinson’s can take a drug called levodopa, or L-Dopa, to control their symptoms. But L-Dopa becomes less effective with time, as the brain loses an enzyme that converts the drug into dopamine.

With gene therapy, researchers can transplant DNA that codes for this missing enzyme. During the treatment, viruses carrying this DNA are injected into a patient’s brain through a pressurized tube.

Voyager is currently testing whether the new method can deliver enough DNA to the right brain areas to restore L-Dopa’s effectiveness.


When a Loved One Is Diagnosed With Parkinson’s Disease

How Can I Help Manage My Loved One’s Care?The incidence of Parkinson’s disease, which is common in people over the age of 60i, is expected to rise with the aging of our populations. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that mainly affects movement. The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are tremor, rigidity or stiffness of the muscles, slow movement, loss of movement, and balance and walking problems.ii

When a sufferer first hears a Parkinson’s diagnosis, they may still be experiencing few physical symptoms. The good news is that the progression rate for the vast majority of individuals with PD is rather slow — “measured in multiple decades for most,” according to the National Parkinson Foundation.iii But for both the patient and their family, there can be significant emotional issues surrounding that early diagnosis, mainly fear of what the future will bring. Patients dread losing their independence and family caregivers panic, envisioning how they will be needed over time. While these emotions are common, caregivers should keep in mind thatthis is not an emergency. They should take time to learn about how the disease progresses and remember: in most cases it will be many years before intensive assistance is required.

Although there is no known cure for Parkinson’s, there are drugs that can provide symptom relief for 10 to 15 years or longer. One difficulty with treating PD, and a major concern for PD caregivers, is that, as the disease progresses, a sufferer’s response to medications may change. A dosage that was previously effective may become effective for shorter periods of time, so medications need to be continually reevaluated and adjusted. Parkinson’s patients must carefully note their medication times and how their symptoms are affected so they can report this information to clinicians. This monitoring and dialogue with the healthcare provider is an important component of Parkinson’s disease self-care and caregiving.

Side effects for medications can present challenges for both the caregiver and the patient. For example, commonly reported side effects associated with a class of drugs called dopamine agonists include impulse control disorders such as gambling, hoarding, or obsession with pornography. Caregivers may be embarrassed or uncomfortable talking with a professional about these behavioral side effects. It may help to keep in mind that these are well-reported medical issues and that the behaviors can be controlled with a change in medication.

In the caregiver support program I manage at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, we frequently hear of caregivers struggling with the medications for Parkinson’s. They understand the importance of adhering to the tight medication schedule, but few have prior training and frankly, it can be confusing to manage so many medications with different dosages and timing. It can get particularly difficult if patient has to spend time in the hospital, which interrupts the schedule and often results in additions and changes to the medications.

It’s important to remember that since Parkinson’s disease typically progresses slowly, family caregivers have time to learn about the disease, and prepare for the future. Talk openly with your doctor, and ideally, consult with a Movement Disorder Specialist, a neurologist who is aware of the latest treatment protocols available. There are certain questions you can ask early to gain more information:

  • What stage is the illness in now?
  • How fast can we expect the illness to progress?
  • Will my family member be able to maintain the work/hobbies/sports he or she is     doing now?
  • What drugs/treatments do you recommend?
  • Are there lifestyle changes you suggest (such as diet, sleep, etc)?
  • Can you recommend a Movement Disorder Specialist?
  • Where can we get support from others in this situation?iv

As is common in many caregiving situations, it’s crucial that caregivers look after their own needs as well as those of their loved one. If you become overwhelmed with helping another, you will be less available for the long-term. Certain simple steps, common to many caregiving situations, can be an important foundation for sustaining quality of life for everyone in the family:

  • Take time to learn about the disease, and be prepared.
  • Develop open communication with health professionals—they are there to help.
  • Don’t forget to take care of your health, and visit your own doctor for regular     check-ups.
  • Recognize that you can’t do it all alone, that no one can! Accept support from others     and don’t be reluctant to ask for help.
  • Be open and understanding with your loved one—allow your relationship to change.     You may find that the “new normal” is just as good, if not better, than the old one.
  • Encourage social engagement and physical activity in your loved one, and allow     them to be as independent as possible.v

As with many situations in life, taking action can go a long way in helping you cope. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has information about how both Parkinson’s patients and their non-diagnosed family members can help move science forward by participating in a clinical trial. That might not be an option that’s right for everyone, but for some, knowing that you’re helping to bring us all closer to a future cure could be a very meaningful coping strategy.

Reaching out to others who share your concerns may be the single best thing you can do as a family caregiver. There are many helpful forums that can help educate and support those touched by Parkinson’s. The National Parkinson Foundation provides links to local support groups and online chat rooms for Parkinson’s caregivers. Below I’ve listed several resources where family caregivers can gain strength in learning about the disease and in connecting with others