23andMe hopes to find a cure for Parkinson’s through data mining. Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder that affects millions of people, and a cure is hard to find. The company collects gene samples from people who want to know their genetic lineage, which it then stores and uses for research. Along with submitting their gene users answer questions that allow researches to look into things that were previously too expensive. To properly do the the research 23andMe teamed up with Genentech for the analysis of data.
Which is why Genentech’s next step is to sequence the full genomes of 3,000 of 23andMe’s Parkinson’s patients. These volunteers have answered questions about their family history, how quickly their disease is progressing, what treatments they’ve tried and how well they’ve worked. By drilling down into all 3 billion base pairs, the pharma firm hopes to get past the most common traits of Parkinson’s—the ones that each exert a small effect to sum up to the heritability of the disease. Instead, they’re looking for those rare variants, which destroy more biological machinery than average, leaving a trail of rubble that’s easier to track.“ They’re the extreme breaks in the system,” says Rob Graham, a senior scientist in Genentech’s human genetics group, and coauthor on the Nature Genetics paper.
Parkinson’s negatively impacts millions of people around the world by making their muscles harder to control. Basically, in people with Parkinson’s the brain fires extra signals which can cause involuntary muscle movements like shaking. Think of it as your brain stuck in a feedback loop of excitement which it can’t escape – no matter how hard you try. This is where the Emma Watch comes in. The Emma Watch tries to confuse that feedback loop allowing wearers with Parkinson’s to have full control over their hands, and the early prototype works even though nobody fully understands why it works. Research like this will help people with Parkinson’s live a much better life.
The pattern of the vibration is also important. For Lawton, a rhythmic vibration is effective. (A specially designed app in Emma’s Windows 10 tablet controls vibration speed.) For other people, a more random rhythm may work better, Zhang says. However it works, she knows she’s onto something. Lawton does, too.
“It’s a huge opportunity to potentially change some lives,” Lawton says.
As part of her work, Zhang researched the root cause of tremors. She spent six months, off and on, building prototypes. She sometimes worked in her London home, soldering wires to PC boards and tinkering with coin cell motors to create vibrations. She tested early versions with four other people with Parkinson’s, producing promising results for three, spurring the idea forward, she says.
Parkinson’s is a neurological condition that interferes with a person’s ability to control fine muscle movements. This means that hand tremors, or other visible forms of shaking, cannot be finely controlled by someone with Parkinson’s. Student Faii Ong noticed this when he was helping a person with Parkinson’s trying to eat, and he decided to find a way to help.
Ong has designed a complex glove made of simple ideas that helps people with Parkinson’s control hand tremors. It all comes down to gyroscopes and cleverness.
Together with a number of other students from Imperial College London, Ong worked in the university’s prototyping laboratory to run numerous tests. An early prototype of a device, called GyroGlove, proved his instinct correct. Patients report that wearing the GyroGlove, which Ong believes to be the first wearable treatment solution for hand tremors, is like plunging your hand into thick syrup, where movement is free but simultaneously slowed. In benchtop tests, the team found the glove reduces tremors by up to 90 percent.
GyroGlove’s design is simple. It uses a miniature, dynamically adjustable gyroscope, which sits on the back of the hand, within a plastic casing attached to the glove’s material. When the device is switched on, the battery-powered gyroscope whirs to life. Its orientation is adjusted by a precession hinge and turntable, both controlled by a small circuit board, thereby pushing back against the wearer’s movements as the gyroscope tries to right itself.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder that impacts a person’s motor skills and often PD can impact mental functions. PD is in no way a good thing and that’s why I’m one of many people who are fundraising for research. The Michael J. Fox Foundation funds research into PD for ways to find a cure and help those who are living with it. They have already helped to fund over 60 clinical trails.
To help fundraise for this research I’m running in the Toronto Waterfront race and hoping that readers of good news can help make more good news happen!
The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today.
We believe without fail that our goal is within reach – but we can’t get there without your support. Please join the fight today and contribute to my fundraising efforts.
Researchers in Toronto are looking into ways to help people who are suffering from Parkinson’s by altering diets. So far their research has shown that by embracing a low-protien diet some symptoms of Parkinson’s can be managed better.
“Diet is very important in Parkinson’s disease because the main medication called Levodopa may interact with protein,” says Kleiner-Fisman pointing out that in some people high protein may numb the effectiveness of the medication. “Food is a really important part of people’s social lives. If you now have this wacky diet, it makes it hard to enjoy food. A lot of people become quite isolated.”
In total, the students developed 14 recipes: three for each major meal and five snacks. There’s the ginger and vegetable stir-fry chock full of veggies and rice noodles, but only three grams of protein. Or the hearty roasted breakfast potatoes with tomatoes salad also falling within the low-protein requirements. For heavier protein meals, the students came up with a southwestern-style chicken and quinoa dinner and some delicious salmon fishcakes. They also included a list of necessary equipment to make the meals and made sure the ingredients were easy to find in the average grocery store.