Researchers “Break the Cycle” of Parkinson’s Disease

Researchers “Break the Cycle” of Parkinson’s Disease

break the cycle of Parkinson's Disease

Researchers “Break the Cycle” of Parkinson’s Disease

Today’s article brings new light to our understanding of PD especially the role of diet and the Parkinson’s disease and how it may contribute to breaking the cycle of Parkinson’s disease.

It’s clear Parkinson’s Disease is a complex interaction of many factors which neuroscience is starting to unravel but there appears each day, each month a new insight into the disease and also potential intervention.

You might ask yourself why an OT blog is writing about diet.

For us it’s simple.

We can’t perform at our best, to do the things that matter in life, unless all the moving pieces which can affect your performance are optimized.

Diet has an important role in ensuring you have the right and diverse amount of nutrients available so that you body and brain can work at its very best.

Are Antioxidants Potential Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease Patients?

That was the question scientists at Northwestern Medicine have been investigating. They’ve discovered what they refer to as a “toxic cascade” which causes neural degeneration in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease – and they’ve reported  how to stop it.

The research, authored by Dr Dimitri Krainc and Lena Burbulla and published in the journal ‘Science’ last month, was initiated approximately six years ago in a lab at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and was completed in the last four years at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The team is the first to identify a cyclical effect which causes neuron degeneration in Parkinson’s disease patients.

Understanding How And Why Neurons Die In Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s is the second leading neurodegenerative disorder affecting people today. Throughout the course of the disease, dopamine-containing neurons die in a region of the brain responsible for motor control (the substantia nigra). We all naturally lose dopamine neurons as we age, but Parkinson’s patients lose a greater number of these neurons at a rate too fast for remaining cells to compensate for the loss.

Krainc and his team discovered how and why cellular mechanisms behind the death of these cells in the lysosomes and mitochondria occurred, as well as how their pathways converged. The researchers state that it is due to a “toxic cascade” which starts with the accumulation of the protein alpha-synuclein and oxidised dopamine. This weakens the brain’s lysosomal function and contributes to the degeneration of neurons.

The study continues to say that this concoction also damages the neurons’ mitochondria as it increases mitochondrial oxidant stress. These dysfunctional mitochondria increase oxidised dopamine levels, thus creating a vicious degenerative cycle.

Breaking The Cycle

Krainc and his team’s research found that specific antioxidant intervention in the early stages of the disease improves mitochondrial oxidant stress and reduces oxidised dopamine levels. This can stop the continuation of the degenerative cycle of Parkinson’s disease and improve a patient’s neural function.

The Challenges And Practical Applications Of The Research

According to Krainic the time to respond with there intervention is early in the disease process. The problem is people are likely asymptomatic and therefore hard to identify as to who would benefit.

Three early signs of Parkinson’s Disease

One of the challenges of treating Parkinson’s disease is to identify it early enough to slow its damaging effects. Below are three early warning signs that you or a loved one may have the disease:

  1. Tremors/shaking
    Shaking, twitching, or tremors can be caused by a number of factors, including exercise, if you have recently suffered an injury, or the medications you are taking. Keep in mind, however, that constantly having a slight tremor in your fingers, thumb, hand, chin or lip, or having a “shaky leg” when you sit down to relax, can be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease.
  2. Shrinking handwriting
    Our writing may change as we age, but this typically occurs gradually. If there has been a significant change in the size of your printing or if your words appear to be more crowded over recent weeks or months, you may be showing early signs of Parkinson’s disease.
  3. Loss of Smell
    We all experience changes in our sense of smell from time to time, particularly if we have allergies, a cold, or the flu. If you notice you are still unable to smell pungent foods or foods with a strong odour (like liquorice or dill pickles) after your allergy or illness has subsided, you should arrange to see your healthcare provider.

Taking Control Of Parkinson’s Disease With Occupational Therapy Brisbane

Occupational Therapy Brisbane is committed to making the lives of those suffering from Parkinson’s disease better. Our skilled Brisbane occupational therapists assess the homes, workplaces, and communities of those living with Parkinson’s disease and make the adjustments necessary so that you or a loved one can safely enjoy an independent and fulfilling life. Furthermore, we offer Parkinson’s Disease Management Plan consultations and in home functional exercises programs.

Visit us online to fill out an inquiry form or call us today to arrange for a consultation with a Brisbane occupational therapist at 1300 783 200.


Lena F. Burbulla, Pingping Song, Joseph R. Mazzulli, Enrico Zampese, Yvette C. Wong, Sohee Jeon, David P. Santos, Judith Blanz, Carolin D. Obermaier, Chelsee Strojny, Jeffrey N. Savas, Evangelos Kiskinis, Xiaoxi Zhuang, Rejko Krüger, D. James Surmeier, Dimitri Krainc. Dopamine oxidation mediates mitochondrial and lysosomal dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease. Science, 2017; eaam9080 DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9080

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