Self-tuning brain implant could help treat patients with Parkinson’s disease

Stimulating and sensing electrodes are implanted in the brain and connect to small computer under the skin. Data from this computer can be read by an external device.

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Deep brain stimulation has been used to treat Parkinson’s disease symptoms for 25 years, but limitations have led researchers to look for ways to improve the technique. This study describes the first fully implanted DBS system that uses feedback from the brain itself to fine-tune its signaling. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Technologies (BRAIN) Initiative and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

“The novel approach taken in this small-scale feasibility study may be an important first step in developing a more refined or personalized way for doctors to reduce the problems patients with Parkinson’s disease face every day,” said Nick B. Langhals, Ph.D., program director at NINDS and team lead for the BRAIN Initiative.

Deep brain stimulation is a method of managing Parkinson’s disease symptoms by surgically implanting an electrode, a thin wire, into the brain. Traditional deep brain stimulation delivers constant stimulation to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia to help treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s. However, this approach can lead to unwanted side effects, requiring reprogramming by a trained clinician. The new method described in this study is adaptive, so that the stimulation delivered is responsive in real time to signals received from the patient’s brain.

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Tomatoes offer affordable source of Parkinson’s disease drug

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Scientists have produced a tomato enriched in the Parkinson’s disease drug L-DOPA in what could become a new, affordable source of one of the world’s essential medicines.

The development of the genetically modified (GM) tomato has implications for developing nations where access to pharmaceutical drugs is restricted.

This novel use of tomato plants as a natural source of L-DOPA also offers benefits for people who suffer adverse effects – including nausea and behavioral complications – of chemically synthesised L-DOPA .

Tomato – was chosen as a widely cultivated crop that can be used for scaled up production and potentially offering a standardised and controlled natural source of L-DOPA .

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Childhood obesity could increase the risk of multiple sclerosis

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Childhood and adolescent obesity is projected to contribute up to 14 per cent of overall risk of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2035, according to research led by Queen Mary University of London.

Previous studies have estimated that 53 per cent of MS risk is directly attributable to environmental factors, and that up to one in five MS cases could be attributable to smoking. Smoking and high body mass index (BMI) are leading global drivers of many non-communicable diseases and cause significant premature morbidity and mortality.

The study, part-funded by Barts Charity and involving researchers from Queen Mary University of London, Barts Health NHS Trust and the University of Oxford, used published literature from the UK, USA, Russia and Australia, to estimate and project the proportion of MS incidence that could be attributed to two modifiable risk factors: smoking, and childhood and adolescent high BMI.

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Neural signature for fibromyalgia may aid diagnosis, treatment

An MRI image showing the multivariate brain pattern that predicts fibromyalgia status on the basis of brain activation during multisensory stimulation.

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University of Colorado Boulder researchers have discovered a brain signature that identifies fibromyalgia sufferers with 93 percent accuracy, a potential breakthrough for future clinical diagnosis and treatment of the highly prevalent condition.

Fibromyalgia is commonly defined as chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety and mood disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that fibromyalgia affects more than five million adults annually in the U.S., with significantly higher occurrence rates in women than in men.

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New concussion laws result in big jump in concussion treatment

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ANN ARBOR–New laws regulating concussion treatment, bolstered by heightened public awareness, have resulted in a large increase in the treatment of concussion-related injuries for school-age athletes.

Over the past decade, concerns over concussion injuries and media coverage of them have skyrocketed. Since 2009, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted concussion laws regulating concussion treatment–the first laws written to address a specific injury.

A University of Michigan study designed to evaluate the impact of new concussion laws found a 92 percent increase in children seeking medical assistance for concussions in states with the legislation in place. States without concussion laws showed a 75 percent increase in those seeking injury-related health care.

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Restless legs syndrome study identifies 13 new genetic risk variants

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A new study into the genetics underlying restless legs syndrome has identified 13 previously-unknown genetic risk variants, while helping inform potential new treatment options for the condition.

As many as one in ten people of European ancestry is affected by restless legs syndrome, in which sufferers feel an overwhelming urge to move, often in conjunction with unpleasant sensations, usually in the legs. Rest and inactivity provoke the symptoms, whereas movement can lead to temporary relief. The condition is chronic and can get progressively worse, with long-lasting effects on patients’ mental and physical health. People with restless legs syndrome have substantially impaired sleep, reduced overall quality of life, and increased risk of depression, anxiety disorders, hypertension, and, possibly, cardiovascular disease.

For around one in 50 people, the condition can be severe enough to require chronic medication, which may in turn have potentially serious side effects.

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COVID-19 frequently causes neurological injuries

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Without directly invading the brain or nerves, the virus responsible for COVID-19 causes potentially damaging neurological injuries in about one in seven infected, a new study shows. These injuries range from temporary confusion due to low body-oxygen levels, to stroke and seizures in the most serious cases, say the study authors.

Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the study showed no cases of brain or nerve inflammation (meningitis or encephalitis), indicating no immediate invasion of these organs by the pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2.

While this should reassure patients, the neurological complications of COVID-19 should be taken seriously because they dramatically raise a patient’s risk of dying while still in hospital (by 38 percent), researchers say. Such adverse effects also raise a coronavirus patient’s likelihood (by 28 percent) of needing long-term or rehabilitation therapy immediately after their stay in hospital.

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Neurologic complications common even in moderate COVID-19 cases

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MINNEAPOLISCOVID-19 can lead to a broad range of neurologic complications including stroke, seizures, movement disorders, inflammatory diseases and more, even in moderate cases, according to a new study published in the December 9, 2020, online issue of Neurology® Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“We looked at people with neurologic symptoms and COVID at a racially and socioeconomically diverse hospital and found a wide range of neurologic complications–spanning inflammatory complications, stroke and other vascular conditions, metabolic problems, exacerbation of underlying neurologic conditions and more,” said study author Pria Anand, M.D. of Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Yet the majority of these people did not require critical care, suggesting that neurologic complications may be common in people with moderate COVID-19 as well as those with severe disease.”

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Digging deep for differences in Duchenne muscular dystrophy Study identifies divergent gene activity between healthy and damaged skeletal muscle

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DALLAS – Dec. 21, 2020 – A UT Southwestern research team has catalogued gene activity in the skeletal muscle of mice, comparing healthy animals to those carrying a genetic mutation that causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in humans. The findings, published online recently in PNAS, could lead to new treatments for this devastating degenerative disease and insights into factors that affect muscle development.

Understanding the activity of genes can shed light on pathologies that affect different tissues in the body. However, says Rhonda Bassel-Duby, Ph.D., a professor of molecular biology at UTSW, studying skeletal muscle has been a challenge because of a key difference from other tissue types; rather than containing a single nucleus that controls the activity of the genes, a skeletal muscle fiber can contain hundreds of nuclei. And it was unknown which genes were activated in all these nuclei, making it unclear how gene expression differs between healthy skeletal muscle tissue and tissue affected by DMD.

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Epilepsy drug may not increase risk of birth defects

Babies born to pregnant women taking the epilepsy drug lamotrigine may not be at an increased risk of birth defects, such as cleft lip, cleft palate or clubfoot, according to a study published in the April 6, 2016, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Lamotrigine is an epilepsy drug used on its own or in combination with other medications to control seizures; it is also prescribed to prevent mood swings for those with bipolar disorder. Maintaining effective epilepsy treatment during pregnancy is important because seizures may cause harm to the fetus.

“An initial study of this drug showed an increased risk for cleft lip or cleft palate, but a number of other studies since have not, and a previous study showed an increased risk of clubfoot,” said study author Helen Dolk, PhD, of Ulster University in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. “This particular study had a much larger population size?more than double the size of the previous study.”

For the study, researchers looked at data on more than 10 million births during a span of 16 years. Of those, there were 226,806 babies with birth defects. Within that group, researchers found 147 babies who were exposed to the drug lamotrigine within the first trimester of pregnancy and who had non-genetic birth defects. Researchers found that babies with cleft lip, cleft palate or clubfoot were not significantly more likely than babies with other birth defects to have been exposed to lamotrigine in the first trimester.

In the general population, one in every 700 babies is born with cleft lip or cleft palate, or 0.14 percent Nearly one in 1,000 babies is born with clubfoot.

“We cannot exclude a small risk, but we estimate the excess risk of cleft lip or cleft palate among babies exposed to the drug to be less than one in every 550 babies. Since excess risks of cleft lip or palate have been reported for a variety of antiepileptic drugs, we recommend that for all mothers with epilepsy, whatever their drug exposure, special attention be given to examining the baby for cleft palate,” said Dolk. “We did not have specific information on lamotrigine dosage so additional study is recommended, especially of high doses.”

This article is based on a press release from the American Academy of Neurology.

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