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A drug initially designed to treat diabetes may be a breakthrough treatment for Parkinson's disease. After decades of disappointment, could MSDC-0160 be the drug researchers have been searching for?
Parkinson's disease is a progressive condition that strikes the central nervous system.
Causing a range of motor symptoms, it develops gradually, starting with a subtle tremor.
An estimated 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's every year, and over 10 million people worldwide are living with the disease.
Due to society's steadily increasing in lifespan, this figure is likely to increase over the coming years.
Despite billions of dollars of research, there is still no cure for Parkinson's. A drug designed in the 70s - levodopa - is still in use, but its benefits are limited, and the side effects are troubling.
Currently, the only available drugs tackle the symptoms of Parkinson's; none make a dent on the processes that underpin the disease's progression.
Against this somber backdrop, any news of a potential breakthrough drug is likely to turn heads.
Research, published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine, provides such a glimmer of light. A drug, initially designed to treat diabetes, appears to tackle the underlying causes of Parkinson's. If this turns out to be the case, it will be the first of its kind and has the potential to change millions of lives.
MSDC-0160, diabetes, and Parkinson'sInvestigators from the Van Andel Research Institute's Center for Neurodegenerative Science in Great Rapids, MI, believe their recent findings show that MSDC-0160 could be the breakthrough medical science has been waiting for.
"We hope this will be a watershed moment for millions of people living with Parkinson's disease. All of our research in Parkinson's models suggests this drug could potentially slow the disease's progression in people as well."
Dr. Patrik Brundin, senior author
MSDC-0160 was designed by Kalamazoo, a Metabolic Solutions Development Company. As an insulin sensitizer, it was created to treat type 2 diabetes. The company focuses on looking for drugs that might be repurposed to treat conditions other than the ones they were designed for.
This drug has already been proven safe in humans, and its manufacturing process is already established; because of this, the path through clinical trials and into widespread use is shorter and simpler to navigate. Recent trials in a mouse model of Parkinson's have provided positive results, and trials in humans are now set to begin next year.
Tom Isaacs, co-founder of The Cure Parkinson's Trust, says:
"Our scientific team has evaluated more than 120 potential treatments for Parkinson's disease, and MSDC-0160 offers the genuine prospect of being a breakthrough that could make a significant and permanent impact on people's lives in the near future. We are working tirelessly to move this drug into human trials as quickly as possible in our pursuit of a cure."
Parkinson's and metabolismAlthough diabetes and Parkinson's seem like unrelated diseases with an entirely different set of symptoms, researchers are finding that some of the underlying molecular mechanisms share similarities.
Parkinson's is believed to be, in part, a disease of the metabolic system. Rather than attempting to repair or counteract damage that has already been done, this new drug intervenes in the metabolic processes beneath Parkinson's.
MSDC-0160 is an mTOT (mitochondrial target of thiazolidinediones) modulator; it regulates the function of mitochondria - the powerhouses of the cell. It appears to restore brain cells' ability to convert nutrients into usable energy. Once the cell's power is restored, it is able to handle the buildup of potentially harmful proteins. In turn, this reduces inflammation and brain cell death. This one-a-day tablet has the potential to be a lifesaver.
This finding, if clinical trials are successful, is a huge step forward. Not only is there a potential treatment that reaches the source of Parkinson's, but an entirely new pathway has been discovered for future drug designers to hone in on.
Dr. Brundin is equally excited about MSDC-0160's potential use in other diseases, including Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer's.
Learn how the gut microbiome may contribute to Parkinson's
Written by Tim Newman
Let’s start with the good news about aging muscles. You can rebuild them, even if you are middle-aged or older.
“Our lab and others have shown repeatedly” that older muscles will grow and strengthen, says Marcas Bamman, the director of the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In his studies, men and women in their 60s and 70s who began supervised weight training developed muscles that were as large and strong as those of your average 40-year-old.
But the process of bulking up works differently in older people than in the young, he said.
Skeletal muscles are composed of various types of fibers and “two things happen” to those fibers after we reach middle age, Dr. Bamman says. Some die, especially if we have not been exercising our muscles much. Sedentary adults can lose 30 to 40 percent of the total number of fibers in their muscles by the time they are 80, Dr. Bamman says.
Others of the fibers remain alive but shrink and atrophy as we age.
We increase the size of our atrophied muscle fibers with exercise but, for a variety of physiological reasons, do not add to the number of fibers, Dr. Bamman says.
But in practical terms, who cares? Older muscles will become larger and stronger if you work them, Dr. Bamman says.
The key, he continues, is regular and progressive weight training. If you don’t belong to a gym, consider joining one, and then plan on tiring yourself. In order to initiate the biochemical processes that lead to larger, stronger fibers, Dr. Bamman says, you should push your muscles until they are exhausted.
In his studies, volunteers used weights calibrated so that the lifters could barely complete a set of eight to 12 repetitions before their arms or legs grew leaden and they had to rest. They repeated each set two or three times and visited the gym three times per week. If you are new to weight workouts, ask for an orientation at your gym or consult an athletic trainer who often works with older clients.
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 7, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Falls can prove very disabling for the elderly, and new research suggests that measurements of healthy older adults' brain activity may help determine their future risk.
Have you called your daughter by your wife’s name or your son by his brother’s name? Have you misplaced your car keys or forgotten where you parked at the mall?
Chronic pain is an unfortunate reality for many elderly people. As we age, our bodies become more fragile. Osteoarthritic, musculoskeletal, neuropathic, and chronic joint pain are all common and difficult to treat.
Dr Max Ortiz Catalan at Chalmers University of Technology has developed a novel method of treating phantom limb pain using machine learning and augmented reality. This approach has been tested on over a dozen of amputees with chronic phantom limb pain who found no relief by other clinically available methods before. The new treatment reduced their pain by approximately 50 per cent, reports a clinical study published in The Lancet.
People who lose an arm or leg often experience phantom limb pain, as if the missing limb was still there. Phantom limb pain can become a serious chronic condition that significantly reduces the patients' quality of life. It is still unclear why phantom limb pain and other phantom sensations occur.
Several medical and non-medical treatments have been proposed to alleviate phantom limb pain. Examples include mirror therapy, various types of medications, acupuncture, and implantable nerve stimulators. However, in many cases nothing helps. This was the situation for the 14 arm amputees who took part in the first clinical trial of a new treatment, invented by Chalmers researcher Max Ortiz Catalan, and further developed with his multidisciplinary team in the past years.
"We selected the most difficult cases from several clinics," Dr Ortiz Catalan says. "We wanted to focus on patients with chronic phantom limb pain who had not responded to any treatments. Four of the patients were constantly medicated, and the others were not receiving any treatment at all because nothing they tried had helped them. They had been experiencing phantom limb pain for an average of 10 years."
The patients were treated with the new method for 12 sessions. At the last session the intensity, frequency, and quality of pain had decreased by approximately 50 per cent. The intrusion of pain in sleep and activities of the daily living was also reduced by half. In addition, two of the four patients who were on analgesics were able to reduce their doses by 81 per cent and 33 per cent.
"The results are very encouraging, especially considering that these patients had tried up to four different treatment methods in the past with no satisfactory results," Ortiz Catalan says. "In our study, we also saw that the pain continuously decreased all the way through to the last treatment. The fact that the pain reduction did not plateau suggests that further improvement could be achieved with more sessions."
Ortiz Catalan calls the new method phantom motor execution. It consist of using muscle signals from the amputated limb to control augmented and virtual environments. Electric signals in the muscles are picked up by electrodes on the skin. Artificial intelligence algorithms translate the signals into movements of a virtual arm in real-time. The patients see themselves on a screen with the virtual arm in the place of the missing arm, and they can control it as they would control their biological arm.
Thus, the perceived phantom arm is brought to life by a virtual representation that the patient can see and control. This allows the patient to reactivate areas of the brain that were used to move the arm before it was amputated, which might be the reason that the phantom limb pain decrease. No other existing treatment for phantom limb pain generates such a reactivation of these areas of the brain with certainty. The research led by Ortiz Catalan not only creates new opportunities for clinical treatment, but it also contributes to our understanding of what happens in the brain when phantom pain occurs.
The clinical trial was conducted in collaboration with Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Örebro University Hospital in Örebro, Bräcke Diakoni Rehabcenter Sfären in Stockholm, all in Sweden, and the University Rehabilitation Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
"Our joint project was incredibly rewarding, and we now intend to go further with a larger controlled clinical trial," Ortiz Catalan says. "The control group will be treated with one of the current treatment methods for phantom limb pain. This time we will also include leg amputees. More than 30 patients from several different countries will participate, and we will offer more treatment sessions to see if we can make the pain go away completely."
The technology for phantom motor execution is available in two modalities -- an open source research platform, and a clinically friendly version in the process of being commercialised by the Gothenburg-based company Integrum. The researchers believe that this technology could also be used for other patient groups who need to rehabilitate their movement capability, for example after a stroke, nerve damage or hand injury.
Materials provided by Chalmers University of Technology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
A new study finds that the prevalence of dementia has fallen sharply in recent years, most likely as a result of Americans’ rising educational levels and better heart health, which are both closely related to brain health.
Dementia rates in people over age 65 fell from 11.6 percent in 2000 to 8.8 percent in 2012, a decline of 24 percent, according to a study of more than 21,000 people across the country published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“It’s definitely good news,” said Dr. Kenneth Langa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and a coauthor of the new study. “Even without a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or a new medication, there are things that we can do socially and medically and behaviorally that can significantly reduce the risk.”
The decline in dementia rates translates to about one million fewer Americans suffering from the condition, said John Haaga, director of behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the new study.
Dementia is a general term for a loss of memory or other mental abilities that’s severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease, which is believed to be caused by a buildup of plaques and tangles in the brain, is the most common type of dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia and occurs after a stroke.
The new research confirms the results of several other studies that also have found steady declines in dementia rates in the United States and Europe. The new research provides some of the strongest evidence yet for a decline in dementia rates because of its broad scope and diverse ranges of incomes and ethnic groups, Haaga said. The average age of participants in the study, called the Health and Retirement Study, was 75.
The study, which began in 1992, focuses on people over age 50, collecting data every two years. Researchers conduct detailed interviews with participants about their health, income, cognitive ability and life circumstances. The interviews also include physical tests, body measurements and blood and saliva samples.
While advocates for people with dementia welcomed the news, they noted that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss remain a serious burden for the nation and the world. Up to five million Americans today suffer from dementia, a number that is expected to triple by 2050, as people live longer and the elderly population increases.
The number of Americans over age 65 is expected to nearly double by 2050, reaching 84 million, according to the U.S. Census. So even if the percentage of elderly people who develop dementia is smaller than previously estimated, the total number of Americans suffering from the condition will continue to increase, said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach, medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Alzheimer’s is going to remain the public health crisis of our time, even with modestly reduced rates,” Fargo said.
Although researchers can’t definitively explain why dementia rates are decreasing, Langa said doctors may be doing a better job controlling high blood pressure and diabetes, which can both boost the risk of age-related memory problems. High blood pressure and diabetes both increase the risk of strokes, which kill brain cells, increasing the risk of vascular dementia.
“We’ve been saying now for several years that what’s good for your heart is good for your head,” Fargo said. “There are several things you can do to reduce your risk for dementia.”
Authors of the study found that senior citizens today are better educated than even half a generation ago. The population studied in 2012 stayed in school 13 years, while the seniors studied in 2000 had about 12 years of education, according to the study.
That’s significant, because many studies have found a strong link between higher educational levels and lower risk of disease, including dementia, Lang said. The reasons are likely to be complex. People with more education tend to earn more money and have better access to health care. They’re less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise and less likely to be overweight. People with more education also may live in safer neighborhoods and have less stress.
People who are better educated may have more intellectually stimulating jobs and hobbies that help exercise their brains, Lang said.
It’s also possible that people with more education can better compensate for memory problems as they age, finding ways to work around their impairments, according to an accompanying editorial by Ozioma Okonkwo and Dr. Sanjay Asthana of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Yet Americans shouldn’t expect dementia rates to continue falling indefinitely, Haaga said.
Although educational levels increased sharply after the World War II, those gains have leveled off, Haaga said. People in their 20s today are no more likely to have graduated from college compared to people in their 60s.
“We have widening inequality in health outcomes in the U.S.,” Haaga said. “For people without much education, we’ve had very little improvement in health. The benefits really have gone to those with better educations.”
KHN’s coverage related to aging & improving care of older adults is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation, and coverage of end-of-life and serious illness issues is supported by The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Researchers at The University of Manchester have discovered that a potential new drug reduces the number of brain cells destroyed by stroke and then helps to repair the damage.
A reduction in blood flow to the brain caused by stroke is a major cause of death and disability, and there are few effective treatments.
A team of scientists at The University of Manchester has now found that a potential new stroke drug not only works in rodents by limiting the death of existing brain cells but also by promoting the birth of new neurons (so-called neurogenesis).
This finding provides further support for the development of this anti-inflammatory drug, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra in short), as a new treatment for stroke. The drug is already licensed for use in humans for some conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. Several early stage clinical trials in stroke with IL-1Ra have already been completed in Manchester, though it is not yet licensed for this condition.
In the research, published in the biomedical journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, the researchers show that in rodents with a stroke there is not only reduced brain damage early on after the stroke, but several days later increased numbers of new neurons, when treated with the anti-inflammatory drug IL-1Ra.
Previous attempts to find a drug to prevent brain damage after stroke have proved unsuccessful and this new research offers the possibility of a new treatment.
Importantly, the use of IL-1Ra might be better than other failed drugs in stroke as it not only limits the initial damage to brain cells, but also helps the brain repair itself long-term through the generation of new brain cells.
These new cells are thought to help restore function to areas of the brain damaged by the stroke. Earlier work by the same group showed that treatment with IL-1Ra does indeed help rodents regain motor skills that were initially lost after a stroke. Early stage clinical trials in stroke patients also suggest that IL-1Ra could be beneficial.
The current research is led by Professor Stuart Allan, who commented: "The results lend further strong support to the use of IL-1Ra in the treatment of stroke, however further large trials are necessary."
BY CAROL BRADLEY BURSACK
It's very human to feel that holidays should be happy times, with generations of traditions coming to the forefront. After all, we say we celebrate holidays. Doesn't that mean happiness? The reality, however, is that many people can feel isolated and lonely during this sometimes forced "season of good will."
Elders can have an especially hard time with the holiday season. While aging and maturity can bring the wisdom of years for many people, there are inevitable losses that come to even the most healthy individuals. Many of these losses are emotional and social in nature. Spouses become ill or die. Other aging relatives and friends become seriously ill, or die. Neighborhoods change, often leaving even those well enough to remain in their own homes feeling friendless and isolated. The holidays can bring this isolation and a feeling of loneliness to a head.
You, the adult child of a parent who may seem depressed during the holidays, can do much to help. Yes, you are busy and stressed yourself. However, by simplifying the holiday season all around and concentrating on what really matters – people – you can offer your parent help through what can be, for some, a time of discouragement.
12 Tips to enhance your elders' holidays