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Archive for the ‘Parkinson’s’ Category

The Tampa Tribune (2/3, http://tinyurl.com/parkinsons-hotspots) reports people with Parkinson’s disease are more likely to be found in the Northeast and Midwest.   “Finding clusters in the Midwest and the Northeast is particularly exciting,” said Dr. Allison Wright Willis, assistant professor of neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine.  “These are the two regions of the country most involved in metal processing and agriculture, and chemicals used in these fields are the strongest potential environmental risk factors for Parkinson’s disease that we’ve identified so far.”   Genetic factors can explain only a small percent of Parkinson’s cases, Willis believes.  Environmental factors such as prolonged exposures to agricultural herbicides and insecticides and metals such as copper, manganese and lead, are likely more common contributors.   Willis and her colleagues are now planning to studies how exposure to single or combined environmental factors influences Parkinson’s disease risk. 

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According to a study published online Nov. 27 in the journal Gait and Posture (http://tinyurl.com/pakinson-s-gait) the later stages of Parkinson’s disease (PD) are characterized by altered gait patterns.  Although decreased arm swing during gait is the most frequently reported motor problem in individuals with PD, quantitative descriptions of gait in early PD have largely ignored upper extremity movements.  This study was designed to perform a quantitative analysis of arm swing magnitude and asymmetry that might be useful in the assessment of early PD.   Strikingly, the PD group showed significantly greater arm swing asymmetry compared to the control group.  Unlike arm swing magnitude, arm swing asymmetry unequivocally differs between people with early PD and controls.  Such quantitative evaluation of arm swing, especially its asymmetry, may have utility for early and differential diagnosis, and for tracking disease progression in patients with later PD.

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The UK’s Telegraph(http://tinyurl.com/parkinsons-misdiagnosed 11/16, Evans) reports that, according to a paper published in the journal Movement Disorders, “researchers in Scotland, who assessed patients on anti-Parkinson’s medication, found” that “five percent” of the UK’s “120,000 sufferers” may “have been misdiagnosed” and “had little more than stiffness or hand tremors.” Pointing out that “Parkinson’s was a notoriously difficult disease to diagnose accurately in its early stages,” the paper’s authors say that “all suspected sufferers should be referred” to “neurologists with more expertise” who can “make a much more accurate diagnosis.” The paper’s authors also “warned that millions of pounds” were “being wasted on unnecessary” medications annually.

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tremor-buckeye psychiatryBloomberg News (10/13, Ostrow) reports that, according to a study published online Oct. 12 in the Archives of Neurology, “higher concentrations of a natural antioxidant in the body may slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease in patients with early stages of the illness.   BBC News (10/13) reports that “the chemical urate, which is known to cause gout, appears to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.” Researchers Michael Schwarzschild and Alberto Ascherio found that “among 800 Parkinson’s patients…there was a clear trend linking higher urate levels and slower disease progression.” Now, “with support from the Michael J Fox Foundation,” they “will recruit 90 recently diagnosed Parkinson’s patients for treatment with a chemical which helps to produce urate — called inosine — to see if this can raise urate levels so as to slow or halt disease progression.”

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sinemetThe AP (9/30) reported, “Mylan, Inc. said Wednesday it started selling a generic version of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Parkinson’s disease” medication Sinemet. The company received FDA approval for three doses of the generic version, which contains the medications “levodopa and carbidopa.”

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dna75MIT’s Technology Review (5/20, Singer) reports that approximately “a third of the more than half a million Parkinson’s patients in the United States are in the later stages of the disease and resistant to medication.” One treatment “option for these patients is deep brain stimulation (DBS) — a surgical procedure in which an electrode is implanted directly into the brain.” Now, “academic researchers and some startup companies are now searching for new alternatives that also directly target the brain, but which involve shorter surgical time and a better prognosis. While DBS is effective in reducing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, it does not cure it.” A biotechnology company “has developed a novel gene-therapy treatment that is now being tested in clinical trials.” The GAD gene “codes for an enzyme that catalyzes production of the chemical messenger GABA.” Another “approach is to use gene therapy to slow or prevent cell death in the brain area ravaged by Parkinson’s.” Yet, “gene therapy does have its downsides.” Researchers “believe that gene delivery” must be “lifelong.”

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In the Los Angeles Times (4/18) Booster Shots blog, Thomas Maugh II wrote that, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles “have provided strong new evidence linking at least some cases of Parkinson’s disease to exposure to pesticides.” For the study, the team examined “public records of pesticide applications in California’s Central Valley from 1974 to 1999.” The investigators “then identified 368 longtime residents who lived within 500 yards of fields where the chemicals had been sprayed and compared them to 341 carefully matched controls who did not live near the fields.” The authors found that “people who lived next to fields where maneb or paraquat had been sprayed were, on average, about 75 percent more likely to develop” Parkinson’s, “but those who developed the early-onset form of the disease…had double the risk of contracting it if they were exposed to either maneb or paraquat alone, and four times the risk if they were exposed to both.”

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