Saturday August 18, 2018

Lipid Accumulation in The Brain May Be an Early Sign of Parkinson’s Disease

Lipid accumulation in brain may indicate Parkinson's risk

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Elevated levels of certain types of lipids, or fat molecules, in the brain may be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, new research has found.

This finding, published online in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, could have significant implications for identifying patients who may be at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and for the early treatment of the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative, progressive disorder characterised by the dramatic reduction of nerve cells, particularly dopamine neurons that are involved in movement initiation, in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra.

“This (study) potentially provides an opportunity to treat lipid changes early on in Parkinson’s disease and protect nerve cells from dying, as well as the chance to use the lipid levels as biomarkers for patients at risk,” said study lead author Penny Hallett from McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School in the US.

For many years now, the loss of the nerve cells has been attributed to the toxic accumulation of the protein alpha-synuclein.

Representational image
Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

In the past 15 years, however, researchers have been studying an interesting relationship between the risk of developing the disease and mutations that lead to loss of function in the glucocerebrosidase (GBA) gene.

Scientists at the Neuroregeneration Research Institute at McLean Hospital had previously shown that there is an elevation of a class of lipids, called glycosphingolipids, in the substantia nigra of patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Since ageing is the most significant risk factor for developing Parkinson’s disease, the team measured the levels of glycosphingolipids in the ageing brain, using young and old mice.

They found that the same glycosphingolipids that are increased in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients are also elevated in the brains of ageing mice.

Also Read: This New App Can Score Parkinson’s Severity

These findings showed that both genetics (GBA gene mutation) and ageing can cause the same lipid elevations in the brain that are demonstrated in Parkinson’s disease pathology.

“These results lead to a new hypothesis that lipid alterations may create a number of problems inside nerve cells in degenerative ageing and Parkinson’s disease, and that these changes may precede some of the more obvious hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease, such as protein aggregates,” Hallett said.  IANS

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Boxing for Fitness Takes the Fight to Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's mainly affects the dopamine-producing cells in the brain. That leads to a lack or a loss of dopamine, which contributes to the movement difficulties

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The Rock Steady Boxing nonprofit was founded in 2006 by attorney Scott C. Newman, who was looking for ways to stay active after being diagnosed with Parkinson's at age 40. Pixabay

Rock Steady Boxing NOVA gym opened in McLean, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., last December. That was the good news for 75-year-old Neil Eisner, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s six years ago and finds boxing an effective way to fight back against the disease.

Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) was designed especially for people with Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to tremors and balance problems. Each exercise in the program focuses on a specific skill — one is combining punches on a bag to work on strength, another is crawling across the floor. Eisner says the exercises help him perform everyday tasks like moving around and getting in and out of bed.

Some strengthening exercises target vocal cords. “One of the things that’s interesting enough is [Parkinson’s patients] tend to have a [softer] voice. When you have that lower voice, and people can’t hear you, you don’t realize. So, he asks us to bring our voice clearly and more loudly,” Eisner said.

Becoming an RSB trainer

For personal trainer Alec Langstein, working with an older population is familiar. He understands their health issues and the need for them to stay active.

boxing-gym
Parkinson’s patient Jim Coppula gets some pointers from his daughter Ellen as he works out on a bag during his Rock Steady Boxing class in Costa Mesa, California, Sept. 18, 2013. (VOA)

“My aunt has a gym in Westchester, New York, and she does a Rock Steady Boxing program there,” he said. “She invited me up to her gym to check out the program. She thought it would be a perfect fit for what I do. I helped out with a few classes, and it was just, I thought, an amazing program.”

The Rock Steady Boxing nonprofit was founded in 2006 by attorney Scott C. Newman, who was looking for ways to stay active after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 40. Since then, more than 500 boxing programs have been introduced in the U.S. and around the world.

Langstein went to the organization’s headquarters to become an RSB-licensed trainer, and a few months later, he opened his Rock Steady Boxing NOVA gym.

“It’s a typical boxing program,” he explained. “They focus on balance, hand-eye coordination, reaction, footwork. There is some cognitive stuff because in boxing, certain numbers equal certain punches. So, when I yell certain numbers, you have to move and react at the same time. So, the brain and the body are working together. It’s also taking out the aggression some people may have out of having the disease.”

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A Parkinson’s patient waits for his training session in the ring during his Rock Steady Boxing session in Costa Mesa, California, Sept. 16, 2013. (VOA)

Improving quality of life

To understand how RSB can help Parkinson’s patients, physical therapist Danielle Sequira says it’s important to know what triggers the symptoms.

“Parkinson’s mainly affects the dopamine-producing cells in the brain. That leads to a lack or a loss of dopamine, which contributes to the movement difficulties,” she said.

While boxing and other exercises don’t cure the disease or stop the dopamine decline, they can improve the patient’s quality of life. Exercises can be modified for people with Parkinson’s, including those in wheelchairs.

“The research shows that exercise helps the brain use dopamine more efficiently,” Sequira said. “My goal usually, after I work with some of my patients with Parkinson’s, is to refer them out to get involved in an exercise program out in the community.”

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Parkinson’s patients stretch as they begin their workout at Rock Steady Boxing in Costa Mesa, California, Sept. 16, 2013. (VOA)

The social effect

RSB seems to have helped Victoria Hebert reduce the symptoms of her Parkinson’s. She has a tremor in her left hand, and says certain situations trigger it.

“Being cold, being hot, or sitting with a crowd I’m not very comfortable with, I can’t help starting to shake. I end up having to sit on my hand just to keep it still,” she said.

Also Read: Study: Experimental Drug can Halt Parkinson’s Progression

But with this crowd, Hebert doesn’t feel the need to hide the disease. “These people have become very close in the four or five months we’ve been together.”

“That’s the big part of it, sharing experiences with others,” she added. “I have to say, it’s very embarrassing, but over eight years of time I’ve never met another person with Parkinson’s. Then, I came here, and it was like a whole class of 20, 25 people with it. It was kind of surprising to me, kind of surprising that I, myself, didn’t reach out to anybody before that.” (VOA)