Category Archives: Living with PD

Do Re Mi Mi Mi Mi

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Good news for me. Not such good news for those around me. More research results point to the benefits of singing for those with Parkinson’s Disease. This echoes back to a blog I published two years ago – Helpless, Helpless, Helpless, Helpless (reproduced below). The latest study results you can find here.

I’ve always seemed to have a penchant for musicians with voices that have some character – the quivery Neil Young, the droning Leonard Cohen, the gravelly Lucinda Williams or Tom Waits, the nasal Bob Dylan, the symphonic Rufus Wainwright, the piercing Iris DeMent or the multi-layered Joni Mitchell.

I have, at one time or another, in both public and private settings, attempted to sing along to all of these artists (and many more) with a remarkable consistency. Bad (and that’s not a Michael Jackson bad). Off-key. Somewhat out of step. Just bad.

Nonetheless, this hasn’t deterred me. Whenever I hear a tune I particularly love (and there are many),  I am ready to belt it out and sing along. Without hesitation. Yet, as my children have grown older, public “performances” have been virtually eliminated due to their collective embarrassment while private performances are on a steady decline. I just don’t have the gift of a golden voice I guess – and my children are quick to remind me. Perhaps this explains why I have been drawn to such artists – their “savoury” voices are a good camouflage to my vocal prowess.

Now, I could blame this all on Parkinson’s Disease. Since being diagnosed 15 years ago, my voice has definitely weakened. I speak softer and am frequently being asked to not mumble or repeat what I have said. I cannot project my voice in any kind of crowd without amplification. I speak in more condensed sentences and often with pauses that I believe are sometimes physiological and other times cognitively generated. My mouth dries out constantly from the medications I am on.

This might be a familiar refrain to some. You may have heard the story of a brilliant singer whose career was tragically struck short by PD. After repeated commercial success and mercurial rise in the pop charts, this singer was silenced by Parkinson’s. That’s Linda Ronstadt’s story though. Not mine. I was never that blessed with musical talent.

Instead, I have been blessed with a deep appreciation for those with such talent. A joyfullness that comes from singing along to a favorite tune. An appreciation for healthy vocal chords. And a certain degree of vulnerability that still allows me – nay, requires me – to join in whenever I hear Neil sing….

Big birds flying across the sky,
Throwing shadows on our eyes.
Leave us…

 

 

(originally published August 17, 2015)

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one shot

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I heard that Sidney Crosby and the Stanley Cup returned to Canada today and it brought back memories of the very first time  he brought the cup home. Parkinson’s Disease and Stanley Cup parades don’t often come together but they did for this story I wrote in October 2009 (a shortened version appeared in the Globe and Mail that same year).

One shot. We’d settle for one shot. Just one highly unlikely, virtually impossible, but still-have-a-chance shot. After trekking 1200 kilometers, with 5 kids in tow, surely we were deserving of at least one shot.

That spring, we had watched every thrilling moment of the Penguins quest for the Stanley Cup that culminated in a victorious lap around the ice by none other than Canada’s own Sidney Crosby. The youngest captain of any Stanley Cup team to ever hoist the Cup up high! He would raise it once more that year in the small town of Cole Harbour, NS to celebrate his 22nd birthday and share the Cup with his hometown.

My eight year old son, who had just began his “hockey career”, was a very big fan of Sidney and as organizers of the event began to release details, we made our plans to be there accordingly. This was a chance to see Sidney Crosby in person and a special bonus that drew us in. There would be posters of Sidney available for $10 and with each poster you bought, you would receive one ballot for a chance to be 1 of 87 people to have your picture taken with Sidney and the Cup. No autographs mind you. But a picture of you with Sidney! My son’s enthusiasm grew as did the list of people he would buy posters for to increase his chances of being one of those lucky 87. We’d buy 8, maybe 9 posters. That would be 8 or 9 ballots. Not bad chance we thought.

As the days grew closer, estimates of the crowd drew larger – 10,000 – no 20,000 – no 40,000 people expected to be there! In little Cole Harbour?! We had our doubts but we decided to get there early all the same. We dutifully heeded all warnings not to drive to Cole Harbour and face traffic chaos and lined up to take a shuttle bus from Halifax 4 hours prior to the event. Two hours later, we boarded a bus and arrived soon thereafter well in advance of the start of the parade. Already there was a fair size crowd and we could see a spattering of posters rolled up amongst the crowd. I enquired with the staff where I could purchase these posters and our coveted ballots. “Oh, none left. Sorry, we sold out”.

Sold out? Why it was almost 2 hours before the event was to begin and they were sold out?? My heart sank. My son’s heart sank further still. We stood there motionless while more people continued to stream into the park. We had not one ballot. Not one shot.

How was I to console my son? There was no way now that he would get a chance to meet Sidney. With the crowd so deep he might not even get a chance to see him. Sporting his #87 Penguins jersey he looked to me for an answer “What are we going to do now Dad?”

A father does not always have the answers. Nor does he always have a plan. I had neither but fell back onto a well-worn phrase to buy me time. “Well just have to wait and see” I said. “I’ll be right back”. I left him and my family and walked away not really knowing where I was going. As I walked along the street lined 10-15 rows deep with people I wondered if perhaps, during the frenzy of Sidney’s arrival with the Cup, someone along the 4 km. route might inadvertently rise up to greet Sidney and in their ecstatic glee somehow “drop” their ballot and I would swoop down and grab it and benefit from their misfortune. That would be it – our ticket – our shot (albeit one tainted by someone else’s loss).

That was how I envisioned it. That was my back-up plan. Yet, as a 50+ year old man with Parkinson’s, I don’t do too much walking and I never swoop at anything. Still that was the best I could do and off I hobbled to the start of the parade route. As I drew closer, the sound of bagpipes heralded the start of the parade. First, the mayor’s car. Then the local beauty queen. A radio DJ in another car. A teammate of Crosby’s in another car. And then, atop a big red fire engine – Sidney and the Cup! My plan of action was set. And so it began. I walked alongside the firetruck, looking up at Sidney and down at the ground as people rose to their feet. Back at Sidney. Back to the ground. Sidney. The ground. Sidney. Ground. All the while, my Parkinson’s exaggerated movements – flailing arms, somewhat gaited walk and blank stare – were accentuated.. After several minutes, I noticed the presence of security guards – on and around the firetruck – each of whom were looking at me and speaking into concealed microphones. A policeman on a motorcycle drew ever closer and did the same. Was I stalking Sidney? Was I a threat to be diffused? Was I about to try some horrendous extortion of the Cup?? That, combined with the hands of all those in the crowd that held firmly onto their ballot, suggested that perhaps I’d better move along faster and rejoin my family. Dejected, but not arrested.

As I tried to return to the centre where I’d left my family, the sea of people had now turned into a tsunami. I waded through the crowd to get back to the centre but along the way, I noticed that behind the main stage, there were trucks loaded with TV gear, moving vans, security guards, storage containers. But virtually no people. From here, at least we would get a glimpse of Sidney – or at least the back of his head. That was about the best we could hope for. I recovered my family and proudly showed them the spot I had discovered. They weren’t impressed. From our vantage point, if you strained your neck, you could see the side of the stage that had been fenced off for Sidney to enter. Collectively, we strained our necks and waited for his arrival.

First came the mayor. The beauty queen. The others. Each stopping at the side and disembarking. Then came the clang of the fire bell. Sidney was coming! As the truck approached the stage, we gave our necks one last good stretch and readied for it to stop. But it didn’t. It kept going. Past the side of the stage. Right around to the middle of the back of the stage. Right in front of us!!

This was it. Our one shot. “GO” we shouted in unison to my son. Urging him to cross the security line and head for the firetruck to greet it’s descending member. “GO!!” “STOP. BEHIND THE LINE” retorted the security guard. As we pulled back our dejected son, another more severe breech of security broke out further down the line and guards left their post to assist.

“GO. GO.” we again urged. My son, jersey in hand, rushed directly in to the firetruck just as Sidney descended the stairs. “Happy Birthday Sidney! Would you sign my jersey?” he enquired and passed him the pen. They conferred over where he was to sign it and on the number 7 he did. Lucky number 7. My son’s hockey number. He had it. We had it. Our one shot. Scored!

 

Lemon

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Congratulations, Jimmy Choi! You’re our hero!

I received this tweet the other day from the Michael J Fox Foundation and I must admit that it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I am only vaguely familiar with the television program American Ninja – a show where contestants race through an insane obstacle course like human pinballs. Like many reality shows, it all seems a little pointless to me.
Having said that, I suppose for those individuals who take on this “challenge”, they probably have their reasons – be it to face and overcome Herculean barriers, perhaps to showcase olympian-like physical strength or dogged determinism, or the rangy warrior facing a flurry of foam foes and blows.
Still, I don’t get it.
 Jimmy Choi probably does though. The 41 year old from Illinois was one of the contestants this week and what set him apart from others was that he happens to have Parkinson’s Disease. He was diagnosed 14 years ago so even the most cynical critic must give him credit for such extreme effort. Props, Jimmy!
However, the Michael J Fox Foundation gets no props on this one. Congratulations, Jimmy Choi! You’re our hero!  Our hero? Really? What exactly makes a man who runs through foam a hero? Is there an inference here that People with Parkinson’s (PwP) should look to a person like Mr. Choi as some kind of role model? If so, this is fiercely off the mark. Most PwP have much more severe symptoms and limitations brought on by their disease than does Jimmy.
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Might I suggest that if the Foundation is looking for heroes, they should look to the men and women who struggle to live with the day-to-day challenges they face in living with PD. They should look to those partners of PwP who give up so much of their own lives to help support and care for the PwP in their family. They should look to the advocates and activists in the Parkinson’s community who are working so hard to battle this disease. They should look to the members of the medical community who give so much ongoing support to PwP.
These “heroes” may not have raised $100,000 for MJFF. They might not have any PR cash coattails upon which to ride but it seems to me that most days when life gives these “heroes” lemons, they make proverbial lemonade. They are our heroes.
Me, I just sucked on the lemons today.
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I’ll try to be less tart next time.

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Shakinallover

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We interrupt our regular programming to present this musical interlude of some of the best Parkinson’s music you may ever hear! Well, in fairness, they are technically not about Parkinson’s Disease in particular, but whenever I hear them these days, they resonate in a different way.

If you’re a PWP (Person with Parkinson’s) perhaps you have similar songs that do the same for you. Did I miss your favourite? Add it in the comments or drop me a line and I’ll be happy to add it to the collection!

Here’s my favs:

  • This was an unexpected hit for the Canadian band The Guess Who in 1965. Shakin’ All Over

 

  • Shake, Rattle and Roll by Big Joe Turner in 1954 audio only

 

  • Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On by Jerry Lee Lewis. Here’s a live version from 1957.

 

  • Hippy Hippy Shakes a hit for The Swinging Blue Jeans in 1963. audio only

 

  • Eric Burdon and the Animals tried to cash in on a dance craze with Shake in 1966.

 

 

  • Let’s Shake by Teenage Head. A live version from the early 90’s.

 

  • It goes against my better judgement to  include this in any “best of” list but, from 1976, KC and the Sunshine Band perform live on Soul Train their iconic piece Shake Your Booty.

 

 

These don’t necessarily make a “best of list” but I thought someone may want something original from people with PD themselves. These aren’t earnest tales of woe but attempts to have a laugh about PD. Here’s one from Mitch Faile and a less polished, but equally authentic one, from Beverly Ribaudo.

 

 

 

see me, feel me

 

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Image of Sympulse from Klick Labs

In my last blog, Tell Me What You Want, I reviewed the need for PWP (People with Parkinson’s) to be more vocal about their needs.

While we might wish that others in our lives would be more empathetic, we can’t leave it solely to their own initiative.

Well, surprisingly, someone was listening. And right here in Canada! I’m not exactly sure that this is what I had in mind but if the shoe fits (or, in this case, the armband), wear it!

CTV news reported recently that Klick Labs has developed a tool that can simulate the experience of PWP so that their caregivers can get a sense of what it actually feels like for that person.

This device, dubbed  The Sympulse, records the tremors of Parkinson’s patients and then wirelessly transmits the data to a second device worn by a caregiver, to allow them to “truly feel what the patient is feeling”. The device, which resembles a blood pressure cuff, is strapped around the forearm, with a battery and motor pack providing the tremors.

I probably should have stopped reading the article here. My skeptic antennae were buzzing. The article continues…

Klick Labs VP Yan Fossat says the point of the “tele-empathy” device is to help those caring for people with the nerve disorder to get a real feel for the condition.

“This is intended to create empathy, to make you feel that having tremors is actually very debilitating; it’s not just a mild inconvenience,” he told CTV’s Your Morning.

“Feeling the disease with your own arm, with your own hand, is the best way to truly understand what it’s like,” he added.

Okay Yan, thanks for the thought. I’d be negligent if I didn’t point out though, Parkinson’s Disease is about much more than a “nerve disorder” or having tremors. One doesn’t have to look far to see that PD is a complex, chronic neurological disorder compounded by a myriad of other conditions including rigidity, dyskinesia, isolation, depression, apathy, mobility problems – to name but a few. PD also varies so much from one person to the next  (for my own personal “list”” see my blog here). Feeling the disease is, of course, impossible without living with it which we obviously wouldn’t wish upon anyone but pretending that running a few volts of current through some wires and giving the odd jolt to someone’s arm will help someone “truly understand” PD is a bit of a stretch. If the purpose is to feel my tremor, reach out an touch my arm. Or hold my hand.

There is, I’m sure, a use for such a device in “simulation” exercises such as those employing smoke-stained goggles to simulate limited vision or noise-reduction headphones to suggest hearing loss or padded gloves to simulate dexterity restrictions. Using the Sympulse in this context, and with the understanding that tremors are but one symptom of PD, might provide an opportunity to foster empathy. I’d suggest it will take a little more work than this purports.

 

To read the aforementioned article in full, click here.

Tell me what you want -what you really really want

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STOP right Now, shazzz999, deviantart

I count myself fortunate to have a good number of friends, family, health care professionals and even neighbours around me that can be called upon to offer support in my day-to-day struggles with PD. Despite this, from time to time, I feel reticent to ask for help. I don’t want to impinge upon anyone or be a burden.

There are also times – particularly at home and with family – when I find myself getting frustrated or preturbed that no one is considering my needs or stepping up to lend a hand (of course, there is always the possibility that my family feels exactly the same way I do – that it is me that isn’t sensitive to their needs. But this is my blog and I’ll cry if I want to!). It could be something as simple as not helping do up a zipper on my coat or taking care of yard work or chores around the house. Don’t they see me struggling with that zipper? Haven’t they noticed the tree debris on the lawn?

Perhaps, since I have always “managed” these parts of my life, there is no sense of ownership to the tasks at hand. Perhaps I have not been as good at delegating or empowering others as I should.  Perhaps the sense of altruism and caring that I’d like to think our family has emparted seems only to apply beyond our front door.  Alternatively, this may be done entirely with the intent of giving me a sense of control, of independence, of ability – to empower me in my present circumstances.

Whatever the case,  I need to be more vocal about how those who are close to me can help out. A tough call to make for one who has been so fiercely independent to date. But it’s also a part of coming to terms with living with PD and the limitations that it sometimes imposes on our lives.

 

 

 

200 years too long

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Image courtesy boardgamegeek.com

For weeks I’ve been struggling to write a piece that won’t be read as a depressing chronicle of living with Parkinson’s or as a condemnation against some in the PD world who repeatedly mask the impact of this disease with cheery affirmations. In particular, this April – Parkinson’s Awareness month -has oft times been more exasperating than usual as there has been an almost celebratory tone to mark the 200 year anniversary of the discovery of the disease.

I’ve produced a few drafts but nothing that I considered quite good enough.Too negative. Too grumpy. Too disgruntled. I couldn’t see how any of these would contribute or move things forward in a positive way.

Then, quite by chance, I received a copy of a blog from Jon Stamford in the UK.  Jon is a long-time advocate and researcher in the Parkinson’s community and our paths first crossed when, as editor of the UK-based publication On The Move, he published one of my articles – A Lesson for the Teacher.

Jon has consented to me sharing this insightful piece that I hope serves as a call to action in the Parkinson’s community. Please read it and share! If you’d like to read more by Jon, check out his website at http://www.jonstamford.com.

200 Years Too Long

Each year at about this time, we talk about Parkinson’s Awareness Day, Week, Month or what have you. And each year we hear the usual talking heads telling us that lots is already being done to make the Parky world a happy place. We should pipe down and be grateful.

That’s drivel. Complacent drivel.

That’s why I am slightly puzzled by the commemoration of the Parkinson’s Disease Bicentennial. In case you are unaware (and if you are, where have you been hiding?), let’s be clear what exactly that is. Parkinson’s disease as we now know it was first described by James Parkinson in 1817 in his “Essay on the Shaking Palsy” although it didn’t acquire the Parkinson’s moniker until some years later when Jean Martin Charcot generously ascribed preeminence on the condition to Parkinson.

Today especially, throughout the globe, neurological associations, patient groups, and charities are falling over themselves with invited lectures, symposia, conferences, monographs, webinars and publications marking this Bicentennial. The whole jamboree has the air of a celebration.

But what precisely are we celebrating? Surely not the fact that this condition has been recognised for two centuries yet still has no cure. Indeed, until 50 years ago, there were barely any symptomatic treatments.

To my mind, this is less a cause for celebration than for collective mourning. We, the Parkinson’s community, should not be proud that a neurological condition has been known for 200 years yet has no cure. This is a damning indictment not a ringing endorsement.

That we have no cure is a collective failure. It’s all too easy to place responsibility at the feet of the research scientists or of the drug companies. But this would be wrong. We patients must bear our share of the responsibility. Clinical trials fail for a number of reasons. Sometimes poor experimental design is responsible. Sometimes inappropriate statistical analyses are to blame. But as often as not, trials fail because of inadequate recruiting. And that one is down to us, the patients.

Our failure to find a cure – and let’s be clear, this is a failure – is the collective responsibility of the entire Parkinson’s community, from doctor to patient and from scientist to caregiver. We have all failed in some way to advance the field as far as we should have.

We have failed also to raise awareness of Parkinson’s in political and governmental circles. Hansard has recorded all the business of the Houses of Parliament for the last 200 years and, during that time, Parkinson’s as a health issue has not been discussed once in the Commons until this year.

On 6 March this year, Nick Thomas-Symonds, MP for Torfaen, raised the issue of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons, largely at the instigation of Spotlight YOPD, a charity founded to cater for the interests of younger Parkinson’s patients who feel largely neglected by the country’s major Parkinson’s charity. It’s hard to believe that this year is the first in 200 that Parkinson’s has been discussed at a parliamentary level. Hard to believe but sadly true.

We need to work harder to cure this illness. Parkinson’s will not go away until the entire community from caregivers and partners to pharmaceutical multinationals and research scientists pull together. Everybody has a part to play and, until we all play those parts, we will not see an end to this condition.

11 April 2017 is a day when scientists, physicians and drug companies will doubtless congratulate themselves on the progress they have made over the last two centuries. And, don’t get me wrong, we have made progress. But the truth is that we have not made the progress we want and need. Every year around a quarter of a million people with Parkinson’s die. And they die because we don’t have a cure for this illness. So 11 April 2017 is not a day to celebrate Parkinson’s disease. It’s a day for us to look at ourselves in the mirror, reflect on the human calamity of Parkinson’s and to renew our vows to beat this illness once and for all.

Jon Stamford

 

 

 

A Day in the Life

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Woke up. Fell out of bed. Dragged a comb across my head. Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, and looking up I noticed I was late.

So began a day in the life as immortalized in the classic Beatles tune.

This spring, there’s another UK export that has caught my attention.

As you may or may not know, April is Parkinson’s Awareness month. Lots of folks with Parkinson’s are making an effort to promote PD awareness in any number of different ways. Last year I recall publishing a daily blog entry each week day for the month. This year I’m not nearly as ambitious!

Two individuals from the UK are, however, very ambitious as they have committed themselves to publishing a daily vlog (or video version of a blog) for a full year and dubbed their initiative “PD 365”. Emma Lawton, diagnosed 4 years ago at the age of 29, and David Sangster, also diagnosed at 29 but 6 years ago, have just recently gone live with their video diaries.

To help raise awareness, they both intend to chronicle their daily adventures in living with Parkinson’s and promise to provide an honest portrayal of how PD effects their day to day lives and that of their friends and families. I’m personally looking forward to tuning in regularly to get their perspectives as this creative, yet arduous project unfolds!

Here’s a link to Emma’s introduction to the project, as well as David’s first entry. If you like what you see, please support them in their efforts by subscribing (no cost) to their vlogs.

As well, here’s a link to a story on their vlog initiative in Parkinson’s Life if you are interested in more backgrounder. Cheers Emma and David!

 

 

 

That is correct, Alex

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image from famousfix.com

A 200 Year Old Mystery.

A chronic neurological disease characterized by movement disorders.

A complex medical condition with unknown origins and a wide variety of symptoms dependant on the individual.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

 

(camera pans out to Alex Trebek and the Jeopardy game set)

“Yes! That is correct! That is  the question we were looking for!” declares host Alex Trebek. “And now, for perhaps our biggest challenge to date, what pray tell, might be the cure for Parkinson’s? Or, perhaps at the very least, the next breakthrough in treatment for this horrible condition. Let’s meet our new contestant….”

Suspenseful music builds. Drama ensues. Who will be revealed as the next Jeopardy contestant?

“We’ll be right back after these commercial messages”…

 

Interesting news coming out of Toronto and the Toronto Western Hospital (TWH) Movement Disorders Clinic (where I happen to be a patient).

Those of you who follow the popular game show Jeopardy in the U.S. will know that a few years ago, IBM built a computer to understand answers on Jeopardy and come up with the right questions. They gave this new “contestant” the moniker of Watson (think Sherlock Holmes’ “Elementary, my dear Watson”!). Since his appearance on the game show in 2011, IBM has expanded Watson’s talents, building on the algorithms that allow him to read and derive meaning from natural language. The computer system can pore through documents millions of times faster than any human. Among other functions, IBM adapted Watson for use in medicine.

TWH is the first hospital in Canada to use Watson for research in Parkinson’s. The centre has a track record of running clinical trials for off-label drug use, which means taking a drug approved for treatment of one condition and repurposing it for another. Researchers here believe Watson can help them speed up this process to find a cure for Parkinson’s.

This all began about a year ago when one of the patients at TWH, Jonathan Rezek, a 56-year-old IBM executive, pitched the idea during an examination with his doctor at the centre. As he noted, “Parkinson’s is a really slow moving disease. It’s hard to do research on it. So anything you can do to make research go faster is a positive.”

Rezek’s story, and the interesting trail that led to this unique deployment of Watson’s abilities, have been told in a April 15 2017 Toronto Star feature article  Can Watson, the Jeopardy champion, solve Parkinson’s?.  The article tracks the early development of Watson over 10 years ago as somewhat of a game-show novelty cum corporate data management promotional tool to an important medical research tool. Watson has, it is noted, ” the potential to manage the exploding increase in digital information, including electronic patient records and the thousands of scientific studies published every day.”

Here’s a brief excerpt on how Watson is being deployed in Toronto to tackle PD:

…(Watson) doesn’t know what to look for on its own. Doctors and scientists have to “train” Watson. In this instance, he was tasked with reading more than 20 million summaries of scientific studies that were available free online…researchers trained him to look for any mention of alpha-synuclein, a common brain protein that clumps together in Parkinson’s patients, an action that scientists think causes the disease. Watson then looked in the same text for a mention of an approved drug in Ontario.

“It really is the most simplistic strategy,” says Tom Mikkelsen, president and scientific director of the Ontari Brain Institute. “What it is looking for is the statistical nearness of the words.”Watson ranked the list of 52 drugs from best to worst… 21 of the drugs are worthy of further study, and of those, 16 had never been linked to Parkinson’s before. “I was asked the question one time, how would you approach this same problem that you’ve posed to Watson without Watson,” says (researcher) Visanji. “And the answer is we wouldn’t have. We couldn’t have physically done it.”

It’s a shortcut that could shave years off approval of a new drug to treat the disease, a process that typically takes at least a decade and costs millions of dollars. Typically, one in 10,000 drugs studied in the lab will make it to a clinical trial, a drop-off that scientists call the Valley of Death. “If there’s something out there that’s already gone through its toxicology testing; that’s gone into humans; that’s completely safe … then bingo,” says Visanji. “Why would you look for something else?”…

The next step for the team at Toronto Western, if they can find another $300,000 in funding, is to take Watson’s list of drugs and narrow the search even further. Scientists can look at patient data in Ontario to see if the incidence of Parkinson’s is lower in people on any of the 52 drugs, which could mean the drug is beneficial in some way. They’ll also test the best 20 or so candidates in the lab to see what effects they have on alpha-synuclein aggregation. The best candidate will be chosen for the off-label clinical trial. “You could get a clinical trial up and running in six months after we’ve picked the best candidate,” says Visanji. “I see this as something that could happen. It’s a reality. I really hope it does come from this. “And if it does, the short cut is insane.”

 

Crazy, eh?! Exciting stuff happening here! Cue the music…back to you Alex! Time to introduce our next contestant! All the way from Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Watson!! (Author’s note: I hope this is the right link…I’m still struggling with this new technology!) Click here and play!

 

 

 

this ain’t me in grade 9, baby

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Photo by John Rennison, The Hamilton Spectator

In the news today, from my former hometown Hamilton, Ontario, comes a great story about seeking clues for the development and treatment of Parkinson’s Disease. Hamilton is well known for its excellent health facilities and research intitatives though, in Canada, it has not been a hub for PD. It was a surprise to discover this research emanating from “The Hammer” but even more I marvelled at the source – a 9th Grade student, Anika Gupta, of Westdale Secondary School!

That is correct. A Grade 9 student. I don’t know what you were doing in Grade 9 dear reader but winning a Science Fair or conducting scientific research were nowhere on my radar (unless of course you call trips to Quebec to smuggle and sample large quarts of beer research). Having a father who is a Professor in Biology at McMaster certainly may have sparked her interest and provided her with a good foundation and good genes, but this doesn’t diminish her own accomplishments in the least.

Using a tiny species of roundworm as her model, Gupta’s research showed that a certain gene in the roundworm and a certain small chemical compound were able to protect the same types of nerve cells that are damaged when a person develops Parkinson’s. She’s now working with a McMaster professor of chemical engineering in the early stages of developing a nasal spray that could deliver the chemical compound to the brain to perhaps delay onset of the disease.

Great stuff Anika! When you have they time, let me buy you a beer to congratulate you! I am well versed on some of the more intriguing and hearty craft lagers from Quebec.

To read the full article on Anika Gupta’s work, click here.