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Fitness guru Joe Wicks joins forces with NHS for dedicated Parkinson’s workout video



British-based fitness coach Joe Wicks has joined forces with the NHS to release a dedicated exercise video for people with Parkinson’s disease.

The 20-minute video is available free online. It is hoped it will have a positive impact on those suffering from the progressive neurological condition, whose main symptoms include slow movement, stiffness, and tremors. It can also affect people’s walking, sleeping, and memory.

The online class – put together in conjunction with experts at St Thomas’ Hospital in London – comprises 10 different exercises, including a ‘sit to stand’ challenge, and aims to help people with Parkinson’s exercise at home.

Parkinson’s affects around 145,000 people in the UK and an estimated 8.5 million worldwide.

Disability and death due to Parkinson’s disease are increasing faster than for any other neurological disorder.

Research has shown that taking part in regular physical activity can positively impact patients’ symptoms, most notably gait, balance, grip strength, motor coordination, tremor, flexibility, and even thinking skills. It’s also been shown to help mentally, relieving the signs of depression, and patients have decreased their medication dosages.

Wicks, who is known as The Body Coach and came to national acclaim in the UK for hosting daily online PE lessons for schoolchildren during the Covid-19 lockdowns, said: “I’m so passionate about making exercise accessible for all people, no matter their ability. Taking part in regular exercise has many benefits not just for your physical health, but also your mental health.

“It was great to come down to St Thomas’ Hospital to hear more about how exercise can help people with Parkinson’s manage their symptoms and to create this workout video tailored specifically for them.”

St Thomas’ Hospital hosts exercise classes for patients’ with Parkinson’s in six-weekly blocks. While visiting the hospital, Joe took part in one of the classes.

Milly Khan, a highly specialist neuro-physiotherapist at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “Physical activity is a really important component of treatment for Parkinson’s, and the condition shouldn’t be a barrier to being physically active.

“It’s important that physical activity sessions contain components of aerobic fitness, strength training, balance and core control, and stretching. You don’t have to challenge these systems all in one go, spread them out throughout the week.

Fitness coach Joe Wicks has teamed up with experts at St Thomas’ Hospital in London to create a dedicated workout video for people with Parkinson’s.

“We have tried to incorporate all these components in this video and recommend you complete them at your own pace. Physical activity doesn’t necessarily mean attending exercise classes several times a week, it also includes gardening and dancing.

“It’s important that you challenge your symptoms and you enjoy it.”

Carol Webb, from Eltham in south east London, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2019 and has previously attended exercise classes at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Carol, 52, said: “Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I’ve found taking part in regular exercise like yoga really helps to keep my joints flexible. If I sit still for too long, my joints can feel stiff so it’s good to keep moving.

“I found the exercise classes with Milly really helpful and, although tiring, it has given me the confidence to start a circuit training class locally – something I would not have thought possible previously.

“During lockdown, my youngest daughter and I took part in Joe’s online PE lessons in our garden, so it’s been exciting to take part in this video alongside him!”

Most people with Parkinson’s first develop the disease after the age of 60. But between 5% and 10% experience early onset forms of Parkinson’s before the age of 50. Early onset is often, but not always, inherited, and some forms have been linked to specific alterations in genes.

In most cases, however, the disease doesn’t seem to run in families. Many researchers now believe that Parkinson’s could result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins.

It’s possible to live for years unknowingly with Parkinson’s before symptoms become obvious.

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, although medicines, surgical treatment and other therapies can often relieve some of the symptoms. But numerous studies have linked exercise to helping reduce the risk of Parkinson’s – and slowing its progress.

Ms Khan continued: “I’d like to say a huge thank you to Joe for coming along to St Thomas’ Hospital and not only creating this great video, but also taking the time to meet some of our patients and join in with one of our weekly exercise classes.

“Having this specially-created resource that people can do in the comfort of their own home will make a huge difference to not only the patients I see at St Thomas’, but those across the country.”

The exercise video for people with Parkinson’s is available free online on The Body Coach YouTube channel.


Europe: Improving access to early-stage lung cancer care



Europe: Improving access to early-stage lung cancer care

Researchers from Amsterdam UMC Cancer Center Amsterdam have looked at inequalities in access to early-stage lung cancer care in Europe.

Early-stage lung cancer has stark differences between European countries regarding access and reimbursement.

There are also differences in reimbursement times and indications between the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Researchers from Amsterdam UMC Cancer Center Amsterdam analysed the landscape, publishing their results in The Lancet Regional Health Europe as part of a series on the latest developments in the treatment of this lung cancer.

“Tackling inequalities in access to care must be a common European priority,” says Amsterdam UMC pulmonologist Idris Bahce. In collaboration with colleagues from seven European countries, Bahce used a literature review to map out the latest developments and analyse access to these new treatments from a European perspective.

“The existing differences in healthcare systems and reimbursement structures between European countries threaten to exacerbate healthcare inequalities at both European and national level. We therefore call for a collective European approach to reduce these inequalities,” says Bahce.

He suggests measures such as more international cooperation between the EMA and other registration authorities, harmonising cost-effectiveness procedures in European countries, a more critical evaluation of reimbursement criteria and improving multidisciplinary collaborations around the patient.

The standard treatment for fit patients with early-stage lung cancer has always been surgery, sometimes combined with pre- or post-operative chemotherapy. Recently, the EMA has approved new treatments such as immunotherapy, which appear to significantly improve survival rates after surgery. More approvals of innovative treatments are expected, potentially further exacerbating existing inequalities within Europe.

In addition to the Dutch hospitals Amsterdam UMC and Erasmus MC, colleagues from Spain, France, Germany, England, Italy and Poland also contributed to this international study as well as a Review and a Viewpoint in The Lancet Regional Health Europe.

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Study looks at link between adversity and cognitive decline



A new paper has examined the relationship between childhood adversity and psychiatric decline, as well as adult adversity and psychiatric and cognitive decline. 

The findings revealed just one instance of adversity in childhood can increase cases of mental illness later in life. It also revealed that adverse events in adults can lead to a greater chance of both mental illness and cognitive decline later in life. 

The paper has been published by Saint Louis University associate professor of health management and policy in the College for Public Health and Social Justice, SangNam Ahn, Ph.D., in Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Ahn stated: “Life is very complicated, very dynamic. I really wanted to highlight the importance of looking into the lasting health effect of adversity, not only childhood but also adulthood adversity on health outcomes, especially physical health and psychiatric and cognitive health. 

“There have been other studies before, but this is one of the first that looks into these issues comprehensively.” 

Ahn, along with his team of researchers, examined data from nearly 3500 individuals over the course of 24 years. The group took the longitudinal data and evaluated it using a list of lifetime potential traumatic events.

The research team included childhood adversity events such as moving due to financial difficulties, family requiring financial help, a parent experiencing unemployment, trouble with law enforcement before the age of 18, repeating school, physical abuse and parental abuse of drugs or alcohol. 

Adulthood adversity events included the death of a child, the death of a spouse, experiencing a natural disaster after age 17, firing a weapon in combat, a partner abusing drugs or alcohol, being a victim of a physical attack after age 17, a spouse or child battling a serious illness, receiving Medicaid or food stamps and experiencing unemployment. 

The study determined that nearly 40% of all individuals experienced a form of childhood adversity, while that number climbed to nearly 80% for adulthood adversity. Those who experienced childhood adversity were also 17% more likely to experience adulthood adversity. Only 13% of individuals sampled reported two or more forms of childhood adversity, while 52% of adults experienced two or more forms of adult adversity. 

In cases of either childhood adversity or adulthood adversity, researchers found individuals who experienced adversity were also more likely to experience anxiety and depression later in life, and in the case of adulthood adversity, were also more likely to experience cognitive decline later in life. 

Individuals with one childhood adversity experience saw a 5% higher chance of suffering from anxiety, and those with two or more childhood adversity experiences had 26% and 10% higher chances of depression and anxiety, respectively. Individuals who experienced two adulthood adversities had a 24% higher chance of depression, while also experiencing a 3% cognitive decline later in life. 

While most of the results were expected or unsurprising, one area that stood out to Ahn was education. Those individuals studied who reported higher levels of education saw a reduction in the number of adversity experiences. Ahn hopes to study this avenue more to learn how education may be able to mitigate or prevent these declines. 

“Before including education, there was a significant association between childhood adversity and cognitive impairment,” Ahn said. 

“But when including education as a covariate, that significant association disappeared. Interesting. So there were important implications here. Education and attending school, people could be better off even if they were exposed to childhood adversity. They’re likely to learn positive coping mechanisms, which may help avoid  relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as smoking or excessive drinking or drug use.

“Education is quite important in terms of health outcomes. If I am educated, I’m likely to get a better job, have a higher income, and live in areas with less crime. I’m likely to buy gym membership or regularly exercise. I’m likely to shop at Whole Foods and get proper nutrition. All of which help combat these adversities we hinted at in the study. So the education and health outcomes are already closely related, and that is what we saw in our study.”

Ahn also encourages clinicians and everyday people alike to discuss their stress. Clinicians can learn more about their patients and have a better approach when it comes to their physical and mental health, while others could potentially relate to shared experiences. But through awareness and recognition, these adverse experiences could potentially have less serious, lasting effects. 

“Public health is very interested in stress,” Ahn said. “But we’re still examining how daily stress impacts our long term health outcomes. So to see the effects here in the study, I want people to pay attention to their stress and proactively address it. Clinicians should have deep discussions with their patients about their stress and mental state. And those topics can be approached in other areas too, like the classroom or the dining room table. The more we are aware of stress and discuss our stress, the better we can handle any adversities we find in life.”

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New tool to explore mechanisms of age-related diseases



New tool to explore mechanisms of age-related diseases

A new screening tool has been developed that will investigate the mechanisms behind conditions such as cancer, arthritis, neurodegeneration and cardiovascular disease.

Wellcome Sanger Institute researchers and their collaborators at Open Targets and EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) have developed the screening tool called scSNV-seq.

The tool has been designed to uncover how genetic changes affect gene activity that can lead to diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

The tool enables the investigation of thousands of DNA mutations identified by genetic studies in one experiment, and will help to guide the development of advanced diagnostics and treatments.

scSNV-seq allows the rapid assessment of the impact of thousands of genetic changes in cells that have never been screened before, directly connecting these changes to how those same cells operate. 

This technique helps researchers to pinpoint mutations that contribute to disease, which will offer crucial insights for developing targeted therapies.

In a new study, published in Genome Biology, the team applied scSNV-seq to the blood cancer gene, JAK1, accurately assessing the impact of JAK1 mutations.

The assessment revealed for the first time that certain mutations caused a “halfway house” phenotype cycling between different states which was not possible under previous approaches.

The technique is designed to demonstrate versatility across cell types, including hard-to-culture primary cells like T cells and stem-cell derived neurons, as well as various editing methods such as base editing and prime editing. 

Applied on a large scale, scSNV-seq could transform understanding of the genetic changes driving cancer and decoding genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes and other complex diseases.

Dr Sarah Cooper, first author of the study at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, stated: “In an era where the rate of genetic variant discovery outpaces our ability to interpret their effects, scSNV-seq fills a major gap for studying challenging cells like T cells and neurons. 

“We are already using it to shed light on the impact of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s risk variants on brain cells.”

Dr Andrew Bassett, senior author of the study at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “Our technique is able to directly connect effects of mutations to how a cell behaves, revealing downstream impacts that previous technologies alone cannot deliver. 

“The technique speeds up the identification of causal genetic mutations, which will allow better diagnosis and deepens our molecular understanding of diseases, paving the way for more targeted and effective treatments.”

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