New in Parkinson’s research

Reducing brain inflammation in Parkinson’s

Dr. Shawn Hayley, associate professor at the Institute of Neuroscience, Carleton University and Canada Research Chair in Neuroscience, is studying an immune system protein in the brain that can reduce inflammation and promote cellular growth. The protein, GM-CSF (granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor), may be able to protect dopamine-producing brain cells in people who have been newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Researchers believe inflammation in the brain – possibly caused by exposure to pesticides or other environmental toxins – may be killing those dopamine neurons.

Gum chewing to improve swallowing function

Dr. Mandar Jog, director of the Movement Centre at London Health Sciences Centre, is looking at objective measures of swallowing improvement in people with Parkinson’s in a residential care setting. In an initial study of 20 people with Parkinson’s, Dr. Jog, along with speech language pathologists Angie South and Stephanie Somers, found that chewing gum significantly improved swallow frequency and latency in patients with Parkinson’s disease in a hospital setting. Dr. Jog’s hope is that people with Parkinson’s can be retrained to swallow with sustained improvement. This could mean a simple, cost-effective solution for people living with Parkinson’s.

Dr. Mandar Jog with Speech langauge pathologists Angie South (middle) and Stephanie Somers (left)
Dr. Mandar Jog with Speech langauge pathologists Angie South (middle) and Stephanie Somers (left)

Measuring iron levels in the brain for possible new diagnostic tool for Parkinson’s

People with Parkinson’s disease have higher levels of iron in the brain. At the University of British Columbia, Dr. Alexander Rauscher, a research associate and expert in an imaging technique called Susceptibility Weighted Imaging (SWI) is working with Dr. Martin McKeown, an associate professor of medicine, to develop a better version of SWI which is very sensitive to iron and which results in better, sharper images than can be obtained with conventional brain scans. Rauscher and McKeown’s goal is to establish an imaging biomarker for Parkinson’s. This would mean an earlier diagnosis and improved treatment monitoring of Parkinson’s.

Dr. Alexander Rauscher is a Research Associate at the University of British Columbia MRI Research Centre
Dr. Alexander Rauscher is a Research Associate at the University of British Columbia MRI Research Centre

Investigating shape changes in brain structures for clues to Parkinson’s diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. McKeown is also using newly-developed MRI techniques for assessing shape to determine if parts of the brain change shape after development of Parkinson’s disease and to determine if the shape changes correlate to specific aspects of the disease. Most studies in the past have investigated changes in brain volume. It is more subtle to look at changes in brain shape. This work could have implications for Parkinson’s diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Martin McKeown is Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of British Columbia, Pacific Parkinson's Research Centre
Dr. Martin McKeown is Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of British Columbia, Pacific Parkinson's Research Centre

Listener impressions of people with Parkinson’s disease (PDF)

Research conducted by Dr. Marc Pell, associate professor at McGill University’s School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, in collaboration with Abhishek Jaywant, a research trainee in McGill’s Neuropragmatics and Emotion Lab, has found that people with Parkinson’s disease suffer social difficulties simply because of the way they talk.

The Donald Calne Lecture

Parkinson Society Canada and Parkinson Society Ottawa host The Donald Calne Lecture on Sunday, May 16th in Ottawa, Canada.

Dr. Andres LozanoThis year’s presenter is Dr. Andres Lozano, distinguished Neuroscientist and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Neuroscience.  Dr. Lozano is currently Professor and RR Tasker Chair in Functional Neurosurgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada. His research is focused on developing novel surgical treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders particularly for Parkinson’s disease and depression. Dr. Lozano’s work has appeared in over 300 peer reviewed publications and he is highly cited ranking in the top 5 in the world in the fields of both Deep Brain Stimulation and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Lozano will speak about advances in the treatment of Parkinson’s in surgery and prospects for the future.

Proud sponsor of the Donald Calne Lecture:

For information, contact Marjie Zacks at 1.800.565.3000, ext. 3380 or Hilary Evans at 613-722-9238 or email hievans@toh.on.ca

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