23rd February 2009 - New research


Movement Disorders [2009] Feb 17 [Epub ahead of print] (Diem-Zangerl A, Seppi K, Wenning GK, Trinka E, Ransmayr G, Oberaigner W, Poewe W.) Complete abstract

Parkinson's Disease is not a fatal illness. However, it has often been claimed that somebody has died due to the complications of Parkinson's Disease, such as the assertion made on the following web site : "Parkinson's sufferers eventually die from secondary complications such as pneumonia, urinary tract infection, pressure sores, septicemia and stroke." Although Parkinson's Disease reduces the ability to cope with some medical disorders,
deaths due to some medical disorders have been associated with Parkinson's Disease even though Parkinson's Disease has nothing in common with them.

Researchers have shown that claims of death being much more likely in Parkinson's Disease are greatly exaggerated. After 5 years of Parkinson's Disease, the death rate was actually significantly lower than for other people of the same age. Even after 10 years of Parkinson's Disease, the death rate remained lower than for people without Parkinson's Disease. Only after 15 years with Parkinson's Disease did somebody's risk of mortality increase beyond the norm, and even then it was only slight - 1.2 times more than would be expected. After 20 to 30 years with Parkinson's Disease, the increased likelihood of mortality was still only 1.3 times normal. The risks were found to be even less for females.


20th February 2009 - New research


The Open Stem Cell Journal [2009] 1 : 20-29 (M.F.Lévesque, T.Neuman, M.Rezak) Complete study

Researchers have published what is described as "a landmark peer-reviewed paper" that details "the first successful adult neural stem cell transplantation to reverse the effects of Parkinson’s Disease". For more information go to the News release. However, the study involved only one patient, and surgical operations for Parkinson's Disease are renowned for their strong placebo effect. That patient's symptoms appeared to reduce by around 80%. However, the patient still had to remain on Parkinson's Disease drugs. After five years they had symptoms that were worse than when they started, and that were deteriorating rapidly.

This completely nullifies claims of the operation being "landmark" or "successful". Stem cell operations have been carried out around the world. Yet nobody has come away from them rid of Parkinson's Disease. This is not surprising, because the use of stem cell surgery is based on the false assumption that there is massive cell loss in Parkinson's Disease and that replacing lost cells is the logical means of treating it. However, not a single study in the entire medical literature has shown that there is massive cell loss in Parkinson's Disease.


18th February 2009 - News report


Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that affects the pigment producing cells in the skin. For more information go to Melanoma. Researchers have found that people with a family history of melanoma were nearly twice as likely to develop Parkinson's Disease as people with no family history of Melanoma. Previous studies have found that the reverse is true - that people with Parkinson's Disease have a greater risk of developing melanoma. The authors claim that "The results from this study suggest that melanoma and Parkinson's could share common genetic components.". For more information go to the Complete article.

The link between the two is a common biochemistry. L-dopa is formed in the cells involved in Parkinson's Disease and goes on to produce dopamine : L-tyrosine >>> L-dopa >>> dopamine. In certain skin cells, L-dopa is also formed, but instead goes on to produce melanin, the pigment that colours skin : L-tyrosine >>> L-dopa >>> melanin. People with Parkinson's Disease also tend not to produce neuromelanin, a pigment that occurs in the brain, because that pigment and dopamine are initially produced by exactly the same means. So Parkinson's Disease does not necessarily increase the risk of Melanoma. They just have some biochemistry in common.


16th February 2009 - News report


Researchers from Keele University, in England, are using a "super-microscope" to diagnose Parkinson's Disease. They have been using a synchotron, or Diamond Light Source. The synchotron  is a large doughnut-shaped particle accelerator, the size of five football pitches. It fires particles at near the speed of light, focusing them into a beam less than a single cell in diameter. It allows researchers to observe metal ions, particularly iron levels, in individual brain cells that are affected by Parkinson's Disease. For more information go to the news article.

Iron is essential for the formation of L-dopa. The Birkmayer studies showed that iron caused a decrease in Parkinson's Disease in all of the more than one hundred people they tested. However, when L-dopa is deficient, as occurs in Parkinson's Disease, iron can sometimes accumulate in an attempt to increase L-dopa formation. So instead of iron accumulation causing Parkinson's Disease, Parkinson's Disease can sometimes cause an iron accumulation. Many people with Parkinson's Disease do not have any accumulation of iron. So the method does not appear to have any likelihood of being as effective as existing scanning methods.


13th February 2009 - New research


Neuroepidemiology [2009] 32 (4) : 263-269 (Yamawaki M, Kusumi M, Kowa H, Nakashima K.) Complete abstract

Japan might now be the country with the world's highest prevalence of Parkinson's Disease. The U.S.A. was the country with the highest known prevalence rates for Parkinson's Disease. However, such high prevalence rates were only found in Nebraska, U.S.A., where the heavy pesticide use in what is a largely agricultural area may have increased prevalence rates beyond the norm. Other isolated areas have very high prevalence rates, such as in the vicinity of ferromanganese plants in Brescia, Italy, and amongst the Parsi in Bombay, whose rituals cause them to inhale fumes of the potentially toxic Aspand seeds. For more information go to Prevalence of Parkinson's Disease.

The prevalence of Parkinson's Disease in Japan has not previously been high. However, this study shows that the prevalence in Japan has increased continuously up to a recent high of 192 per 100,000 people. Part of the increase would be due to the greater life expectancy. A second factor might actually be the time that has elapsed since the Second World War. There was a high death rate during the Second World War of men who would have subsequently been at the age most likely to have Parkinson's Disease. This is probably why Japan is the only country in the world that had far more women than men with Parkinson's Disease. Over time this is reducing in significance because men of the age most likely to have Parkinson's Disease are now too young to have died during the Second World War.


10th February 2009 - New research


Annals of Neurology [2009] 65 (1) : 76-82 (Gao X, Simon KC, Han J, Schwarzschild MA, Ascherio A.)
Complete abstract

The risk of Parkinson's Disease has been found to increase according to hair colour. The four colours assessed were : black, brown, blonde and red. Over 100,000 people were assessed according to the natural colour of their hair when they were young adults. People with black hair were found to be least prone to Parkinson's Disease. People with brown hair were 40% more likely to develop Parkinson's Disease. People with blonde hair were found
to be around 60% more likely to develop Parkinson's Disease.

Worst at risk were people with red hair, for whom the risk of Parkinson's Disease is nearly doubled. At first this association seems odd because hair has nothing to do with Parkinson's Disease. However, by chance, hair colour and Parkinson's Disease share a common biochemistry. The dopamine needed to relieve Parkinson's Disease is initially made from L-tyrosine turning in to L-dopa. Coincidentally, melanin, the pigment that colours hair and skin is initially made by exactly the same means, by turning L-tyrosine in to L-dopa. However, in skin cells, instead of L-dopa then turning in to dopamine, it turns in to melanin, in order to darken hair and skin.


8th February 2009 - New book


Michael J.Fox

Publisher's description : Always Looking Up is a memoir of this last decade, told through the critical themes of Michael's life: work, politics, faith, and family. The book is a journey of self-discovery and reinvention, and a testament to the consolations that protect him from the ravages of Parkinson's. "The last ten years, which is really the stuff of this book, began with such a loss: my retirement from Spin City. I found myself struggling with a strange new dynamic: the shifting of public and private personas. I had been Mike the actor, then Mike the actor with PD. Now was I just Mike with PD ? Parkinson's had consumed my career and, in a sense, had become my career. I had to build a new life when I was already pretty happy with the old one." Click here for more details


6th February 2009 - News release


Safinamide is being developed by Merck Serono and Newron as an add-on treatment for patients with Parkinson’s Disease. Safinamide unusually has two mechanisms by which it has effect : as a MAO-B inhibitor, which enhances the effect of dopamine, and by the reduction of glutamergic activity by inhibiting glutamate release. However, individually, the two approaches are not new. In clinical trials, Safinamide was found to significantly increase “ON” time in L-dopa treated patients with mid to late-stage Parkinson’s disease. However, the increase in "ON" time was only 78 minutes per day. Even those patients taking a placebo, which basically means not taking anything at all, increased their "ON" time by 42 minutes per day. So the actual increase using Safinamide in comparison to the placebo effect was minimal.

There do not appear to have been any comparison of the side effects caused by Safinamide. Also, no consideration was given to the long term after effects that drugs of this kind would inevitably cause. For the full details go to the Press release. Merck Serono claims that “These results represent a further step toward our goal to provide patients and doctors with urgently needed new treatment possibilities.” Based on the evidence, their estimations concerning the significance of the clinical trial results are unjustified.


5th February 2009 - New research


Neurology [2009] 72 (5) : 432-438 (Driver JA, Logroscino G, Gaziano JM, Kurth T.)
Complete abstract

The symptoms of Parkinson's Disease can occur at any age - from babies with Infantile Parkinsonism to teenagers with Juvenile Parkinsonism. There are many people in their 20's, 30's and 40's with Parkinson's Disease. However, the most common age at which Parkinson's Disease is diagnosed is in the late 50's.

Researchers have found that the incidence of Parkinson's Disease (the rate at which it began) increased sharply at 60 years old. The likelihood of developing Parkinson's Disease continued to increase until it reached a peak at 85-89 years old. Contrary to what is widely assumed, the likelihood of developing Parkinson's Disease starts to decline at 90 years of age, and reduces even further after that. In a previous study it was found that amongst the very oldest of people (those between 110 and 119 years old) Parkinson's Disease is virtually unknown. These studies contradict the view of Parkinson's Disease being due to inevitable decline with age. If cell damage and gradual deterioration with age were the primary cause of Parkinson's Disease, 10 years olds wouldn't get it and 110 year olds would.  Yet the opposite can occur.

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