What I Learned from Attending a Parkinson’s Symposium
I recently attended a symposium titled “Shaping the Future” at the University of Delaware. The event, organized by the Johns Hopkins Udall Center, was patient-oriented, so rather than their peers, the expert speakers were addressing people with Parkinson’s.
Looking around the room, I noticed that the audience included people of various ages and degrees of progression. However, we all had one thing in common: hope for a brighter future. I came prepared with my iPad, ready to learn and take notes for this column.
Presentations covered a wide range of subjects, including gut models, cognitive and psychiatric aspects, disease-modifying versus symptomatic therapy, nutrition, pathophysiology, biomarkers, and genetic mutations.
- Biomarkers are like dominoes — a “cascade” leads to cell death. Remove a domino and stop the process. This video explains the concept.
- You may have heard of alpha-synuclein. I learned that it’s a “bad protein” and potential biomarker when “misfolded” in the development of Parkinson’s.
- The impact of depression on quality of life in those with Parkinson’s is almost twice the impact of motor impairments.
- Protein and L-dopa compete for the same receptor in the digestive tract to get into the blood and the brain.
- Exercise can be a disease-modifying therapy. This presentation looked at a 2017 study that used the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. It found that Parkinson’s patients who exercised at high intensity three times a week for six months had no progression compared with a moderate exercise group whose disease worsened by 1.5 points and a no-exercise group who had a three-point decline.
These are my takeaways from the symposium. If you’d like to explore further, the slide presentations are available here.
Symposiums may not be for everyone; the content can be clinical and hard to understand. However, we should be encouraged by and grateful for the fantastic researchers who are working on finding new treatments and a cure for this disease.
Above all, we should be hopeful that their collective efforts may identify the “dominoes.”
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