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Can Parkinson’s be prevented as it stealthily develops?
A new study finds it may take decades or even a whole lifetime to appear.
- Young Parkinson's disease patients may have just provided a vital clue for prevention.
- Misbehaving neurons that eventually produce the disease may be present at birth.
- A drug already on the market looks to be able to arrest Parkinson's progress.
Parkinson's disease comes with slowness, rigidity, tremors, and loss of balance due to an insufficiency of the dopamine that coordinates muscle movement. This disease, of which the rate of diagnosis is rising, occurs when the neurons responsible for producing dopamine malfunction or die. About 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's each year.
Most of the time, Parkinson's disease is a condition of the elderly, diagnosed in people 60 and older. However, about 10% of the time, it's detected in people between 21 and 50. "Young-onset Parkinson's is especially heartbreaking because it strikes people at the prime of life," says Michele Tagliati, an author of a new study from Cedars-Sinai.
The study of brain cells from Parkinson's younger victims has found that the misbehaving neurons are present long before diagnosis — typically taking some 20 or 30 years to produce detectable symptoms — and may even be present prior to birth. The revelation raises hope for combatting Parkinson's because there's already an approved drug that can mitigate the damage done by the troublemaking neurons before the disease ever appears.
The research is published in the journal Nature Medicine.
Looking at lab-made dopamine neurons
Image source: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock
The authors' investigation began with an examination of neurons based on cells from young-onset Parkinson's (YOPD) patients who had no known mutations. From the cells, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were generated and differentiated into dishes containing cultures of dopamine neurons. Senior study author Clive Svendsen says, "Our technique gave us a window back in time to see how well the dopamine neurons might have functioned from the very start of a patient's life."
The scientists observed lysosomes within the YOPD neurons malfunctioning. Since lysosomes are counted on as "trash cans" for unnecessary or depleted proteins, the castoff chemicals began to pile up. In particular, substantial accumulations of soluble α-synuclein, a protein implicated in different types of Parkinson's, were seen.
Says Svendsen, "What we are seeing using this new model are the very first signs of young-onset Parkinson's,"revealing that, "It appears that dopamine neurons in these individuals may continue to mishandle α-synuclein over a period of 20 or 30 years, causing Parkinson's symptoms to emerge."
The researchers also saw unexpectedly high levels of the enzyme protein kinase C in its active form, though what that has to do with Parkinson's, if anything, is unknown.
Image source: sruilk/Shutterstock
The researchers tested a number of drugs on the cultures to see if any might address the observed accumulations of α-synuclein. (They performed parallel tests of laboratory mice.) One drug, PEP005, which is already approved by the FDA for treating skin pre-cancers, did effectively reduce the α-synuclein buildup, both in the iPSCs and the mice.
Since PEP005 is currently administered in gel form for treating skin, the researchers are now exploring how the drug might be modified so it can be delivered directly to the brain. The team also plans follow-on research to see if their findings apply equally to forms of Parkinson's beyond YOPD.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.
- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?