Monthly Archives: August 2014

New research published in JAMA Neurology suggests that the risk of complications associated with deep brain stimulation (DBS) do not increase with age in people with Parkinson’s.

This research based at Duke University Durham, North Carolina was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Deep brain stimulation is a well-established therapy for people with Parkinson’s. It uses electrical signals from an implant in the brain to help reduce Parkinson’s symptoms. DBS does involve invasive surgery and as with all surgical procedures can lead to complications.

The researchers at the Duke University involved more than 1,750 Parkinson’s patients and analyzed their data. All the patients had undergone the device implantation between 2000 and 2009. Following analysis of the data, the researchers found that 7.5 percent of those patients developed at least one complication within 90 days of the surgery.  The complications included bleeding, wound infections, pulmonary embolism and pneumonia.

Interestingly, the research team found that the risk of complications during the 90 days after surgery was not greater in those over the age of 75 when compared to younger patients.

The study was published on August 25 in the journal JAMA Neurology.


Ten international working groups to be funded under JPND call

The EU Joint Programme Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND) has released the results of a “rapid action” call to support ten groups of leading scientists in finding ways to enhance the use of longitudinal cohort studies for neurodegenerative disease (ND) research.

JPND launched this call on 23rd April 2014 as part of a series of new JPND initiatives, designed to amplify the impact of research by aligning and building upon existing national programmes and initiatives, and to bring a more wide-ranging and multidisciplinary approach to research on neurodegenerative diseases.

The awarded proposals are for top ND scientists to come together and recommend how to address the most pressing issues that prevent full use of longitudinal cohorts. This includes population studies and disease cohorts, both having considerable potential for ND research.  Funding decisions were based upon scientific evaluation and recommendations to the ten sponsor countries by a JPND Peer Review Panel.

Awards cover a wide ND landscape (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, Lewy-body and vascular dementia) and different groups will address methodological challenges for studies in a number of areas,  including cognition/functional assessment, biomarkers and biobanking, imaging, health and social outcomes and presymptomatic ND.

“The plan is that each group will push forward the conceptualization of a key challenge and derive valuable guidelines and/or best practice frameworks for the wider research community” , commented Dr. Rob Buckle, Director of Science Programmes at the UK Medical Research Council, the organisation which facilitated the call process.

According to Professor Philippe Amouyel, Chair of the JPND Management Board “this is an excellent outcome for JPND and a significant opportunity to advance the field.  A rapid and flexible JPND process is now established to achieve JPND strategic goals, here to promote harmonisation of approaches and data sharing. These outputs will accelerate the progress of future studies by the global ND community”.

Each Working Group is expected to run for a maximum of 6 months, reporting back to JPND by Q1 2015.  Looking to the future, and drawing on advice emerging from the Working Groups. JPND is likely to launch a follow-up call for full scientific applications on longitudinal cohort studies, to be received next year.

For further information on the Working Groups awards, click on the link below:

The Dementia Friendly Communities programme, run by the Alzheimer’s Society UK, focuses on improving inclusion and quality of life for people with dementia.

The programme’s five year strategy includes a key ambition to work with people affected by dementia and key partners to define and develop dementia friendly communities.

It has produced a number of films to highlight the programme’s work.

The stress of caring for a family member with dementia may take a toll on health over time, but a new study suggests that even one day off can shift caregivers’ stress levels back toward normal.

Based on measurements of the stress hormone cortisol, researchers found that caregivers had healthier stress responses on days when the dementia patient went to adult daycare. Even anticipation of the day off had an effect on cortisol levels.

Epigenetic modifications control gene expression, but scientists still don’t know if or how they contribute to disease. To address this knowledge gap, the National Institutes of Health launched the Roadmap Epigenomics Project in 2008 to compare epigenomes in healthy and diseased cells.

In the August 17 Nature Neuroscience, two papers from separate but collaborative research groups report on some of the fruits of that effort. Both groups surveyed DNA methylation in hundreds of human AD and control brains and identified several regions where changes in this epigenetic mark correlated with the amount of Alzheimer’s pathology. The results may help flag genes that are turned up or down in AD, and provide insight into pathogenesis, said Philip De Jager at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, the first author of one of the papers.

In the lead up to the publication of the Irish Dementia Strategy (due in Autumn 2014), Atlantic Philanthropies have announced new grants totaling €14.7 million to improve the care and wellbeing of people suffering with dementia in the Republic of Ireland. These grants are the subject of ongoing discussions with the Government. The grants are being made to:

– The Health Service Executive (€12m)

– The Health Research Board (€2.7m)

As a result of this funding, The Health Research Board, and the Irish Department of Health are partnering with Atlantic Philanthropies to invest up to €4.7 million into research on dementia. The research will focus on improving prevention, intervention and care of people with dementia.





The mis-folded and infectious prion protein that is a marker for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease – linked to the consumption of infected cattle meat – has been detected in the urine of patients with the disease by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School.

The results of the international study, are published in the Aug. 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The international team of researchers analyzed urine samples from 68 patients with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, 14 patients with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, four patients with genetic prion diseases, 50 patients with other neurodegenerative diseases, 50 patients with nondegenerative neurologic diseases and 52 healthy persons.

The team used a protein misfolding cyclic amplification assay which mimics the prion replication process in vitro that occurs in prion disease. The misfolded prion proteins were detected in the urine of 13 of 14 patients with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Nutritional shortcomings are a key driver of age-related decline and disability whereas proper diet can increase years of healthy life. In support of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, Joint Research Centre (JRC) scientists have reviewed the evidence on the role key nutrients and diet plays in promoting healthy ageing.

JRC scientists collected evidence on the prevention and treatment of age-related diseases with a focus on under-nutrition in older people, a main cause as well as a consequence of functional decline. The resulting report “The role of Nutrition in Active and Healthy Ageing” provides an important contribution to the overall target of the Partnership which is to increase the average healthy lifespan by two years by 2020, to enable EU citizens to lead healthy, active and independent lives while ageing and to improve the sustainability and efficiency of social and health care.

The 2CARE study of coenzyme Q for Huntington’s disease was halted early because an analysis of the results to date showed that it was very unlikely to show positive results. The study, called 2CARE, was designed to test whether a treatment called coenzyme Q10 could slow the progression of HD.

The Austrian biotech AFFiRiS AG announced positive results of its Phase I safety trial of a vaccine against alpha-synuclein.

Alpha-synuclein is the sticky protein that clumps in the cells of people with Parkinson’s, and AFFiRiS hopes to stop disease by inducing antibodies against alpha-synuclein accumulation. The Michael J. Fox Foundation funded this work with close to $2M, first with a grant for a pre-clinical study and then $1.5M in 2011 for the Phase I trial. This is the first drug against alpha-synuclein to reach clinical testing.

“A treatment that could slow or stop Parkinson’s progression would be a game changer for the five million worldwide living with this disease and the many more who will become at risk as our population ages,” said MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD. “This trial is one of the most promising efforts toward that goal.”

In two different doses the drug, called PD01A, was safe and tolerable. Half of those vaccinated showed alpha-synuclein antibodies, which is a promising but very early sign. Further trials will test PDO1A’s benefit to patients. The next step is a boost study that will test the safety and effect of a boost vaccination (another dose). MJFF will support that trial, which will take place in Vienna, Austria and start recruiting in September.

Source:  PharmaBiz and Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research