Tag Archives: Parkinson’s disease

Way to grow brain cells called “game changer” for studying Parkinson’s

Parkinson's disease
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Parkinson’s is one of those diseases that must be studied in human neurons because animal models that don’t have the parkin gene never develop the disease so they can’t be used. And of course we can’t just cut into people’s brains for scientific purposes.

Now, scientists have developed a way to grow donated human skin cells into brain cells that can show the parkin gene at work. This work may lead to being able to reverse this type (genetic mutation) of Parkinson’s, a type found in about one of every ten Parkinson’s patients.

The article doesn’t say, but I’m guessing this type of discovery has arisen directly out of stem cell research. One more utterly compelling reason to continue funding that work.

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Exhaled breath tool may hasten Parkinson’s diagnosis

An experimental setup used to measure the frac...
Image via Wikipedia

Levels of exhaled nitric oxide can be used to gauge the severity of asthma and of mitral stenosis (see photo for experimental equipment).  Now doctors may eventually be able to tell by the composition of exhaled gases whether a patient will develop Parkinson’s Disease.

They’re calling it a “breath print” and they say it’s fairly simple to obtain. Samples, with plastic bags rigged to exclude room air from exhaled breath, can take about two minutes to get, and then they are “evaluated by a portable device containing an array of ‘nano-sensors.”

All I could think of when I was reading this report was how we are once again trying to find the secrets of nature–in this case, how a dog can tell its master is sick with certain diseases long before the person knows there’s something wrong. The dog’s nose takes its own “prints” from the smell of our breath, our skin, our body fluids, and instinctively knows things about us.

We’re already teaching dogs to recognize some of the smells we need to know about, like cancer or oncoming diabetic attacks. Now if we could just teach them to know what the smells mean—and then tell us…

Speaking of which, recently read an interesting novel written from the viewpoint of a dog who has an idea of its own “evolution.” It’s called The Art of Racing in the Rain, a quick and engaging read.

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