How Parkinson’s Spreads From Cell To Cell

Crucial new research shows how Parkinson’s Disease spreads from cell to cell in the brain, a process which has evaded researchers for decades!

The research, published in Stem Cell Reports, is the first to link the release of alpha-synuclein, a naturally occurring protein that plays a central role in the development of Parkinson’s, with its most common genetic risk factor—GBA1—shedding new light on its role in the progression of Parkinson’s Disease and its symptoms.

The study carried out at the Parkinson’s UK-funded Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre, looked at cells from two groups of participants—a group with Parkinson’s carrying the GBA1 genetic mutation and a control group without the condition.

By studying stem cells and brain cells created from the skin of participants, scientists discovered for the first time that the GBA1 mutation creates problems with how proteins, in particular, alpha-synuclein, are processed and recycled in cells.

When someone has a GBA1 mutation, protein recycling does not work properly in the cell, creating a build-up of alpha-synuclein, which is then released into the brain—contributing to the spread of Parkinson’s.

The physical and motor symptoms of Parkinson’s emerge when around 70% of cells have been lost in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra.

Physical symptoms can include a tremor, slowness of walking, problems with balance, and stiffness. When the condition spreads to other areas of the brain, Parkinson’s dementia and cognitive problems develop.

These new findings offer insight into how and why excess alpha-synuclein is released into the brain and provides new pathways of targeting treatments that could stop this process —with the goal of halting or reducing the severity of the Parkinson’s Disease.

Professor Richard Wade-Martins, Head of Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre, and lead researcher on the Parkinson’s UK-funded study said:

Our brain cells work like a complex manufacturing unit, building new proteins to carry out activities and recycling proteins that get damaged.
We already know that Parkinson’s may spread when alpha-synuclein escapes from affected cells into the brain, where it can then get taken up by other cells.
Thanks to this study, for the first time we know how the protein is released, giving us new clues on how this spread happens. 
Most importantly, these findings open up new avenues into potential new therapies or treatments that could stop the spread of alpha-synuclein and slow the condition’s progression.

 

Dr. Arthur Roach, Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, which funded the study, said:

People with Parkinson’s and their families are living with the constant uncertainty of how the condition will affect them both mentally and physically in the future.
In addition to the well-known problems with movement and balance, up to 80% of people with Parkinson’s will go on to develop dementia, affecting their ability to reason and plan as well as their concentration, attention, memory and language.
The research is a good example of how studying a genetic form of the condition can provide important insights into what is thought to be a fundamental feature of all forms of Parkinson’s.
These findings offer new ideas on how we could stop the condition in its tracks—changing the lives of the seven million worldwide, living with Parkinson’s.
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Are You Fighting a War With Chronic Disease?

Fifty percent of the U.S. population have an unyielding medical condition that clashes with the demands of daily life. Some diseases are visible; some are not. But all are equally draining and disruptive.

The number one cause of death, disability and ever increasing health spending in America: chronic disease.

A chronic disease does not discriminate. Anyone of any age, race, or gender can fall into the grips of a chronic disease such as:

Chronic disease can require a drastic change in a person’s lifestyle. The disease can interfere with job status, leisure activities, social outings, and a person’s independence.

 Then there is the need to deal with the illness itself. Acceptance. Adjustment. Facing the reality of having a chronic illness, the demands of the change in lifestyle it requires, plus the treatment and side effects.

 When I was told I had Parkinson’s Disease, I cried for a week. My thoughts were spinning. I felt sad, worried, alone, and scared. What did this mean for my life? Why did this happen? I began thinking of all the things potentially I could miss with my husband and family. I envisioned not being around to see my three grandchildren grow up.
 Many mental health clinicians use the stages in the Kubler-Ross model when helping people deal with the losses associated with chronic illness. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

 But I experienced other emotions, too, in a range of intensity. Each day is different and brings a variety of emotions and challenges.

Chronic debilitating pain—the kind that lasts longer than three months—is the most widespread affliction of our time. It besets approximately 100 million adults in the U.S.—more than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined—and can upend sufferers’ sleep, mood, appetite, relationships, and ability to function.—Ginny Graves, A World of Hurt, April 2016 Oprah Magazine

There’s an on-going battle for a person with chronic illness. The battle to remain significant to other people and in one’s own life. To be able to contribute to the lives of other people. To still have a purpose. A battle to preserve one’s own worth and usefulness despite a chronic illness. A fight against a loss of a valued level of functioning in the world.

Individuals diagnosed with a chronic illness also are more likely to be depressed, to feel angry about their illness, and often feel a sense of loss of who they used to be.

I have found the following tips that can make life easier:

♥ Be an advocate for your own health. Learn everything you can about your illness. Be informed.
 ♥ Seek second opinions.
 ♥ If a medication doesn’t seem to be working or is causing unpleasant side effects, speak up. Call your doctor.
 ♥ Seek support groups, and go! Bring a family member with you. Call your local hospital for a list in your area.
 ♥ Give yourself permission to feel whatever emotions come your way. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with love. Find things that make you happy. Have you ever heard someone with Parkinson’s play piano? Well, it isn’t pretty but it make me happy.

 In Psychology Today the words of Julian Seifter, M.D. really brings this home in his piece No Fault Illness:

The truth is, no health policy or medical Ten Commandments will ever entirely tame the randomness of the universe or control all the variables affecting people’s health. Simply being alive means being vulnerable to time, chance, illness, death. Not everything that happens to us is a measure of character or will; sometimes an event is just a matter of luck. Tolerance and acceptance are attitudes that help us face whatever chance throws our way. It’s only by acknowledging what lies beyond our control that we can fully embrace the lives we have, for the time we have them.

 

Think about it. Tell me your story.
Sandy    drsandynelson@gmail.com
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