Cannabis could provide relief for Parkinson’s pain
Health Scan: Therapy for Peanuts?; Calcium regulation in cells studied; Green is beautiful; Earlier menopause, earlier memory troubles.
Woman smokes a marijuana cigarette [illustrative] Photo: Toussaint Kluiters / Reuters
As many as eight out of every 10 of those with Parkinson’s disease suffer from
inexplicable pains that until now have been left untreated because they were
thought to be an inevitable part of the progressive and eventually fatal
neurological disease. Parkinson’s, a brain disorder that leads to tremors and
difficulty with walking, coordination and movement, usually develops after age
50 and is one of the most common nervous system disorders of the
But new research at the Rabin Medical Center- Beilinson Campus
has found that genetic factors explain such Parkinson’s pain, and that the new
understanding will make unique treatments possible. Eight genes known to be
involved in pain were examined in 237 Parkinson’s patients, according to a
research paper published recently in the European Journal of Pain, and the
observed variations were connected to functions of cannabis-like substances
(cannabinoids) in the brain.
Research project head Prof. Ruth Djaldetti,
a senior physician in the neurology department and head of the movement
disorders clinic, said that the results support the treatment of Parkinson’s
patients with medical marijuana.
Djaldetti encourages more research into
the use of cannabis for pain relief.
There are some 20,000 people with
Parkinson’s in Israel, and about 50 percent to 80% of them suffer from this
previously unexplained and untreated pain. Djaldetti expects that in the future,
gene mapping will make it possible to suit personalized medication to these
THERAPY FOR PEANUTS?
A new study supported by the US National
Institutes of Health suggests that sublingual (under-the-tongue) immunotherapy
(SLIT) can reduce the allergic response to peanuts in adolescents and adults.
SLIT is a treatment approach in which, under medical supervision, people place a
small amount of allergen under the tongue to decrease their sensitivity to the
This is one of the first randomized, placebo-controlled studies
to test the efficacy and safety of SLIT to treat peanut allergy and is one of
several trials funded by the federal government to investigate immune-based
approaches to preventing and treating food allergy. The results appeared
recently in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
enrolled 40 people aged 12 to 37 with peanut allergy who were on a peanut-free
diet. After an initial test to measure how much peanut powder they could eat
without having an allergic reaction, participants received 44 weeks of daily
therapy, followed by a second test. Fourteen of the 20 participants (70%) given
peanut SLIT were able to consume at least 10 times more peanut powder than they
could at the beginning of the study, compared with only three of the 20
participants (15%) given placebos.
After 68 weeks on peanut SLIT,
participants could consume significantly more peanut powder without having an
allergic reaction. Study investigators also observed that SLIT caused only minor
side effects, such as itching in the mouth, suggesting that daily therapy is
Although more work is needed, the investigators hope that SLIT
could one day help protect people with peanut allergy from experiencing severe
allergic reactions in cases of accidental exposure. The researchers caution that
people should not try peanut SLIT on their own because any form of immunotherapy
carries a significant risk for allergic reactions. The therapy should be
administered only under the guidance of trained clinicians.
REGULATION IN CELLS STUDIED
All living cells keep their calcium concentration at
a very low level. Since a small increase in calcium can affect many critical
cellular functions (an elevated calcium concentration over an extended period
can induce cell death), powerful cellular mechanisms ensure that calcium
concentration quickly returns to its low level.
It is known that
impairments of cellular calcium regulation underlie almost all neurodegenerative
diseases. For example, age-related loss of calcium regulation was shown to
promote cell vulnerability in Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study recently
published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
researchers, along with others from Israel and the US, presented their findings
of a previously undescribed cellular mechanism which is essential for keeping
cellular calcium concentration low. This mechanism operates together with other
Dr. Shirley Weiss and Prof. Baruch
Minke of HU’s Institute of Medical Research Israel-Canada and the Edmond and
Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences characterized this mechanism using
photoreceptor cells of the fruit fly, which is a powerful model for studying
basic biological processes.
They found that calphotin, a calcium buffer,
operates by sequestering elevated calcium concentration. Genetic elimination of
calphotin led to a light-induced rise in cellular calcium for an abnormally
extended time, leading to retinal photoreceptor degeneration in the fruit flies.
The researchers stress that this kind of research, leading to a better
understanding of the fundamental mechanisms underlying cellular calcium
regulation, is critical for the development of new drugs and treatments for
GREEN IS BEAUTIFUL
Women who drink green tea
may lower their risk of developing some digestive system cancers, especially
cancers of the stomach/esophagus and colon/rectum, according to a study led by
researchers from Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Tennessee. The study was
headed by Prof. Sarah Nechuta and published in the American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition. To determine green tea’s impact on cancer risk, the investigators
surveyed women enrolled in the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, a population-
based study of approximately 75,000 middle-aged and older Chinese women. During
the initial interview participants were asked if they drank tea, the type of tea
consumed and how much they consumed. Most of the Chinese women reported drinking
primarily green tea.
The researchers found that regular tea consumption,
defined as tea consumption at least three times a week for more than six months,
was associated with a 17 percent reduced risk of all digestive cancers combined.
A further reduction in risk was found to be associated with an increased level
of tea drinking. Specifically, those who consumed about two to three cups per
day (at least 150 grams of tea monthly) had a 21% reduced risk of digestive
system cancers, especially stomach/esophageal and colorectal
“For all digestive system cancers combined, the risk was reduced
by 27% among women who had been drinking tea regularly for at least 20 years,”
said Nechuta. “For colorectal cancer, risk was reduced by 29% among the
long-term tea drinkers. These results suggest long-term cumulative exposure may
be particularly important.” Tea contains polyphenols or natural chemicals that
include catechins like EGCG and ECG. Catechins have antioxidant properties and
may inhibit cancer by reducing DNA damage and blocking tumor cell growth and
EARLIER MENOPAUSE, EARLIER MEMORY TROUBLES Women who go into
“surgical menopause” due to removal of their ovaries (and sometimes the uterus)
at an earlier age may be at increased risk of decline in memory and cognitive
skills, according to a study to be presented at the American Academy of
Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego next month. Menopause begins
naturally around the age of 50.
“While we found a link between surgical
menopause and thinking and memory decline, women on longer hormone replacement
therapies [HRT] had slower declines,” said study author Dr. Riley Bove of
Boston’s Harvard Medical School. “Since HRT is widely available, our research
raises questions as to whether these therapies have a protective effect against
cognitive decline and whether women who experience early surgical menopause
should be taking hormone replacement therapies afterward.”
included 1,837 women between the ages of 53 and 100 participating a memory and
aging project at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Of those, 33% had
undergone surgical menopause. The women were given several types of tests that
measured thinking skills and memory. It was found that among women who underwent
surgical menopause, the earlier they underwent the surgery, the faster the
decline in their longterm memory related to concepts and ideas, memory that
relates to time and place and in overall thinking abilities.