Grant from MS Society, Parkinson’s UK to Establish Digital Brain Bank

digital brain bank

The Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s Tissue Bank at Imperial College London, is the largest repository of brain and spinal cord tissue samples in Europe.

Now, the MS Society and Parkinson’s UK has announced a £3 million grant (about $3.6 million) to support its transition into a digital brain bank powered by a virtual reality platform, which will provide new tools for researchers around the world with the ultimate goal of stopping Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

These new technologies will be used to create high-definition pictures of brain tissue donated by people with Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis (MS) after their death.

The Tissue Bank, established in 2009, originated from The UK Multiple Sclerosis Tissue Bank and the UK Parkinson’s Disease Society Tissue Bank, both located at the Imperial College in London. Over the years, this repository has collected samples from patients with MS and Parkinson’s disease, as well as healthy donors. Their collection has a large number of well-documented clinical cases that have been used in more than 700 research projects.

The funding from the two leading neurological charities will total £3 million (about $3.6 million) over a period of five years.

“The Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank has played a vital role in advancing our understanding of Parkinson’s so far. Through these new technological initiatives, we will be able to expand the reach and impact of the bank, and enable the best researchers from across the world to study the samples,” professor David Dexter, deputy director of research at Parkinson’s UK, said in a press release.

The new digital tissue bank will grant researchers access to tissue images, as well as the opportunity to explore the brain’s structures in a 3-D interactive section.

“This holds huge potential for speeding up access to better treatments and ultimately a cure for the 148,000 people with Parkinson’s in the UK. In addition to providing tissue to researchers worldwide, this project will now also give them access to an immense library of tissue images that can be studied indefinitely. Sharing and storing tissue samples in this way means each individual brain can be used more extensively, benefitting future projects as well as current ones,” Dexter said.

Moreover, virtual visits will allow potential donors to understand how the bank works and what happens to the donated tissues. In this way people are allowed to make a more informed decision about their donation.

Among other projects, this grant will fund genetic screenings so that researchers can understand how a patient’s genetics contributes for disease development.

David Burrows was a patient who died from Parkinson’s disease 10 years ago. He donated his brain to the bank.

His wife, Deborah Burrows, said “Right from the start, David said he wanted to donate his brain to research. I was pleased — this was typical of David as he always wanted to help others. He worked as a car mechanic, and would always (sometimes literally) go that extra mile for people.”

“I feel so proud of David for his decision — he is a real inspiration to me. One brain can provide around 250 samples that can be used in many different research projects. So, David is still helping people now by ensuring that research to find better treatments for people with Parkinson’s can continue,” she said.

Professor Richard Nicholas, the scientific director of MS Studies at the tissue bank said, “it’s a privilege to have the support of organizations like the MS Society and Parkinson’s UK, who do everything they can to ensure the work of the scientific community reflects the needs of people living with the neurological conditions (…) The charities recognize that if we’re going to revolutionize the way these conditions are treated — and find treatments for everyone — scientists need the right tools.”

“This investment will ensure all researchers have access to high quality brain and spinal cord tissue from people with MS and Parkinson’s, and marks an important development in the UK research landscape. We’re excited to see where it takes us,” Nicholas said.

The post Grant from MS Society, Parkinson’s UK to Establish Digital Brain Bank appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Space Station Research Into Brain Cells Aims to Better Understand Parkinson’s, MS

Space Station research

Research conducted aboard the International Space Station will look at how nerve cells interact with key immune cells of the brain in low-gravity conditions. The goal is to better understand nervous system damage in Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS) — and help improve their treatments.

“This is the first time anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on such cells,” Andreas Bratt-Leal, a stem cell expert with Aspen Neuroscience and one of the project’s lead scientists, said in a NASA press release, written by Charlie Plain. “These cells are hard to study in a lab because of the way gravity influences them. The cool part is now we can do it in space!”

The research was sparked by scientists’ observations of the activation of dormant viruses in astronauts aboard space missions.

The study, “The Effects of Microgravity on Microglia 3-Dimensional Models of Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis,” will explore how spaceflight changes the immune system. The investigators suspect that altered immune processes drive damage in both disorders.

To learn more, they are focusing on neurons and microglia — immune cells of the brain that, when acting normally, defend nerve cells from invaders.

“Microglia are found in every part of the brain, and it’s really starting to look like neurodegenerative illnesses develop because the cells begin behaving improperly or overreacting,” said Valentina Fossati, an MS researcher with the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute, and the project’s co-lead researcher. “Misbehaving microglia may contribute to killing the neurons.”

These cells cannot be collected safely from the brain. So, Bratt-Leal and Fossati are using an approach called induced pluripotent stem cells — in which adult cells are genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic–like state — to make neurons and microglia from skin cells in the laboratory.

The first cells were recently launched into space aboard SpaceX CRS-18. Over the course of 30 days, the cells will be grown into 3D models called organoids, which enable a view both of how nerve cells organize, and how microglia respond to and infiltrate them.

The cells are then returned to Earth for the team to evaluate their shape and arrangement. The researchers also will test whether microgravity — known to increase proliferation and delay differentiation of stem cells — and exposure to space radiation can alter gene expression. That’s the process by which information in a gene is synthesized, or used to create a working product, like a protein.

“We know that forces can influence the behavior of cells by changing aspects such as their shape. So, what happens when you remove gravity?” Bratt-Leal said. “How the cells respond will tell us new things about how they function.”

The cells are now inside CubeLabs, automated modules developed by Space Tango. Inside the CubeLab — approximately the size of a small shoebox — is a camera and a pair of containers. One container holds cells of a Parkinson’s patient and a healthy person, called a control, while the other has cells of an MS patient and a healthy donor. The cells are fed through a tubing and pump system connected to the chambers.

After this preliminary experiment, the team is planning studies on Parkinson’s and primary progressive multiple sclerosis for autumn of this year.

In addition to key insights into the processes of these diseases, understanding how microgravity affects the growth and survival of nerve cells is key to better protecting astronauts in space, particularly on long-duration missions, they added.

The post Space Station Research Into Brain Cells Aims to Better Understand Parkinson’s, MS appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

NSCF Will Launch First 3D Cellular Model of Parkinson’s to International Space Station

space station 3D models

The National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF) announced it will launch the first 3D cellular models of Parkinson’s disease, and primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), to the International Space Station (ISS) to study the cells in low-gravity conditions.

“This innovative approach to study has the potential to provide new insights into the mechanism of these diseases that may accelerate new drug and cell therapy options for patients,” according to the NSCF.

The models, called organoids, use cells taken from people with these two neurodegenerative diseases. Because they are 3D and incorporate multiple kinds of cells — including microglia, the inflammatory cells of the brain — these models are considered relatively good representations of the way cells act and interact in the body. Researchers are particularly interested in observing, in microgravity, biological events such as cell signaling, migration, changes in gene expression — how information in a gene is synthesized to create a protein — and pathways of neuroinflammation.

This knowledge can help scientists gain insight into the molecular mechanism underlying these diseases, in this way accelerating therapy discovery.

Studying these models in the lower gravity of the ISS will provide “an opportunity to view the biological processes and biomarkers involved in a way that is not possible on Earth,” according to a NSCF press release. This has the potential to “enable progress in the field.”

The first organoids to be launched will go up on SpaceX18, which is scheduled for liftoff on July 21 from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

This will be a preliminary flight aimed at testing the facilities and technology required to transport, house, and maintain cell cultures of this sort on the ISS. Studies specific to Parkinson’s and PPMS are planned for autumn of this year. Researchers will send patient-derived human 3-D models of the diseases to the space station for 30 days.

The project is being funded by the NSCF. It is a collaboration between the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute, Summit for Stem Cell Foundation, and researchers at Aspen Neuroscience.

“The National Stem Cell Foundation is delighted to be funding innovative science at the frontier of new drug and cell therapy discovery,” said Paula Grisanti, DMD, MBA, the NSCF’s CEO. Grisanti said the research “may fundamentally alter our understanding of how and why neurodegeneration occurs.”

The engineering needed to transport and house the organoids is being led by Space Tango, which is developing automated systems to support this research. By removing the “human element,” these systems hold the promise of being more consistent and capable of analyzing many samples at once. In addition to improving research in space, this technology may help improve lab work done on the planet’s surface, researchers say.

“We are very pleased to support this important research on the ISS and look forward to continuing to work together with the National Stem Cell Foundation and other partners they may bring on for future flight,” said Jana Stoudemire, commercial innovation officer at Space Tango.

The post NSCF Will Launch First 3D Cellular Model of Parkinson’s to International Space Station appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

MS Medicine Copaxone May Have Benefits in Parkinson’s Disease, Mouse Study Finds


Treatment with Copaxone (glatiramer acetate), an FDA-approved medicine for multiple sclerosis, can restore motor function and biochemical markers in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent study.

The findings, “Glatiramer Acetate Reverses Motor Dysfunction and the Decrease in 9 Tyrosine Hydroxylase Levels in a Mouse Model of Parkinson’s Disease,” were published in Neuroscience.

Parkinson’s disease, the second-most prevalent neurodegenerative disease of the elderly (after Alzheimer’s disease), is characterized by the gradual loss of muscle control, sometimes accompanied by cognitive deficits. It is mainly caused by the gradual loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, a region of the brain responsible for controlling body movements.

Unfortunately, so far, there are no treatments that effectively reduce or reverse degeneration of dopaminergic neurons associated with Parkinson’s disease.

“Glatiramer acetate (GA, also known as Copaxone), which is currently an FDA approved drug used in the treatment for multiple sclerosis, has been shown to directly dampen the pro-inflammatory response within the brain, in both mouse models of multiple sclerosis/experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and Huntington’s disease,” the researchers wrote.

Scientists set out to examine the therapeutic potential of Copaxone, an immunomodulatory drug, in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

In doing so, researchers used a mouse model of induced-Parkinson’s disease, in which the disorder was triggered by treating animals with MPTP, a neurotoxin that induces brain inflammation, loss of dopaminergic neurons, and motor impairments, as seen in patients with the disorder.

Treatment with Copaxone after the onset of the disease reversed gait (walking) and grip impairments in MPTP-treated mice.

Investigators believe this was due to the remarkable recovery in the levels of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), one of the enzymes that is responsible for the production of dopamine in the striatum (a region of the brain involved in motor coordination) following treatment with Copaxone.

In addition, researchers found the number of TH-positive neurons in the substantia nigra increased slightly, albeit non-significantly, in animals treated with Copaxone, compared to those treated with a vehicle solution (control) after MPTP induction.

This was also associated with an increase in the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) — a protein whose main function is to protect dopaminergic neurons — and a decrease in the levels of IBA1, a marker of glial cells’ over-activation caused by brain inflammation. Glial cells, also known as microglia, are nerve cells that support and protect neurons.

Moreover, the levels of non-phosphorylated alpha-synuclein (syn-1), a protein directly involved in Parkinson’s disease, in the midbrain and striatum dropped significantly after MPTP induction and gradually recovered to normal levels after treatment with Copaxone. The midbrain is the region that connects the spinal cord to the brain, and plays key roles in motor movement  and auditory and visual processing.

“In this study, we show that GA [Copaxone] treatment results in restoration of motor impairments and recovery of the nigrostriatal pathway, (…) while dampening the microglia response and restoring BDNF levels,” the researchers wrote.

“Of note, this study also tested GA after the full regimen of MPTP had been completed, a time point at which there is no further loss of TH within the striatum or substantia nigra, showing that GA is a potential neurorestorative agent that has significant translational value for patients with PD [Parkinson’s disease]. To our knowledge, we are the first to test GA in a true restoration animal model of PD, resulting in recovery of the nigrostriatal pathway, leading the way for repurposing of this FDA approved drug,” they added.

The post MS Medicine Copaxone May Have Benefits in Parkinson’s Disease, Mouse Study Finds appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Parkinson’s Foundation Will Gather Experts to Study Cannabis as Disease Therapy


These days, people with Parkinson’s disease tend to ask their doctors more questions about cannabis than any other subject; yet, few physicians have adequate answers for them.

So says a new survey announced by the Parkinson’s Foundation, which plans a conference on that subject next month in Denver.

The March 6-7 meeting will bring together about 40 top scientists, clinicians, physicians and marijuana industry executives, said James Beck, MD, the foundation’s chief scientific officer.

“There’s never been anything quite like this before,” Beck told Parkinson’s News Today by phone from his New York office. “Not a lot is known when it comes to Parkinson’s and medical marijuana. Our goal is to outline what we know and what we don’t know, what might be useful for Parkinson’s and what might not be useful.”

Boxes of “Healer” CBD/THC cannabis drops await distribution at the Kind Therapeutics medical marijuana cultivation facility in Hagerstown, Maryland. (Photo by Larry Luxner)

He added: “Medical marijuana may have its utilities for treating some symptoms, but it isn’t a silver bullet.”

The survey, conducted jointly by the Parkinson’s Foundation and Chicago’s Northwestern University, found that 80% of Parkinson’s patients have used cannabis, and that 95% of neurologists have been asked to prescribe medical marijuana. But only 23% of doctors have ever received formal education on the subject.

In addition, 52% of the 56 experts who responded to the 73-item online survey took a neutral position on cannabis use with their patients, 9% discouraged its use, and 39% encouraged it.

“Having worked as a clinician for the past decade in Colorado — a state at the forefront of medical marijuana use — it is clear that people with Parkinson’s and their families are intensely interested in the potential of marijuana and cannabinoids in helping manage symptoms and other aspects of the disease,” Benzi Kluger, MD, a professor at University of Colorado Hospital and co-chair of the upcoming conference, said in a press release. “To date, there is more hype than actual data to provide meaningful clinical information to patients with Parkinson’s.”

Kluger wrote a review, “The Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids for Movement Disorders,” that was published in early 2015 in Movement Disorders.

Also presenting at the conference is A. Jon Stoessl, MD, co-director of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“In order to move the field forward, we need to determine which cannabinoids are likely to be beneficial or harmful, whether people with Parkinson’s are at risk from side effects, what we are hoping to treat, and how to conduct informative clinical trials,” Stoessl said.

Finding answers

The Parkinson’s Foundation, founded in 1957, now has 120 full-time staffers and an annual budget of $33 million. It represents the roughly one million Americans with Parkinson’s, which now ranks as the second most common neurogenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.

James Beck, MD

Beck said his nonprofit hopes to “develop a path to understanding formulations of cannabis and the pharmacology behind it” for the benefit of Parkinson’s patients everywhere. Scientists have isolated more than 60 cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychotropic compound, and cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive chemical with potential therapeutic properties.

“What one buys over the counter is not consistent from batch to batch. It’s not produced in a regulated way,” Beck told us. “The weed that people may smoke today is 10 times more potent than what baby boomers were smoking in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s a natural product, and things like what ratios CBD and TCH should be are fundamental questions. We’ll have experts suggest what might be best.”

At the moment, 33 states and the District of Columbia have declared medical marijuana legal; that’s up from 20 states only four years ago. In D.C. and 10 states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington — recreational use is also allowed.

Baby marijuana plants thrive at the Kind Therapeutics cannabis cultivation facility in Hagerstown, Maryland. (Photo by Larry Luxner)

“The problem is that the federal government still considers it illegal, and that makes it difficult for researchers,” Beck said. “As we move forward to what’s likely to be a more permissive environment, we want to ensure that as legislation changes, we have a clear plan to move forward with research.”

Cannabis may be useful for several non-motor symptoms such as anxiety and weight loss associated with advanced Parkinson’s, he said, as well as for pain and stiffness.

“However, people with Parkinson’s can have cognitive impairment; some have psychosis and paranoia, and balance issues,” warned Beck, noting that falls constitute the leading cause of death for Parkinson’s patients. “Cannabis can lower blood pressure, which can lead to lightheadedness and falls, as well as hallucinations and paranoia, which may exacerbate the situation. It can also cause fuzzy thinking.”

A recent report, “Special Issue: Cannabis in Medicine,” that was published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, concluded that cannabis reduces spasticity — muscular stiffness or involuntary spasms — in MS patients.

And data from two trials in Italy and the Czech Republic support the idea that Sativex, developed by Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals, is effective in treating moderate-to-severe spasticity. The oromucosal spray is a formulated extract of the cannabis sativa plant and has earned approval in Australia, Canada, Israel and more than a dozen European countries.

The post Parkinson’s Foundation Will Gather Experts to Study Cannabis as Disease Therapy appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Medical Marijuana ‘Can Help Everyone,’ Says Director at Maryland Cannabis Facility

cannabis plant

Warning the reporter accompanying him not to take any pictures, veteran horticulturalist Michael Castleman punches an electronic code and unlocks the door to Room 209, nicknamed the “Mother Room.”

Photography is indeed forbidden inside this living vault, which contains 20 phenotypes of cannabis plants thriving under the glare of 25 ceramic metal halide lamps for 18 hours a day. The plants, arranged in groups of four and narrowed down from an original 1,000 seeds, bear colorful names like Oro Blanco, Bubblegum Diesel, and Sunshine Daydream.

Marijuana plants of the Oro Blanco variety dry in Room 212 of the Kind Therapeutics cannabis cultivation facility in Hagerstown, Maryland. (Photos by Larry Luxner)

“This is the heartbeat of the whole facility,” Castleman told BioNews Services, publisher of this website. “We keep mothers 12 to 16 weeks before we replace them, and we take cuttings every day. If anything happens to these plants, we’re out of business.”

That business is Kind Therapeutics USA of Hagerstown, Maryland — which holds a license to produce cannabis products in Maryland under a management agreement with MariMed, a publicly traded company based in Massachusetts. The venture’s various offerings contain both cannabidiol(CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.

The company occupies a newly renovated 180,000-square-foot facility and a 10,000-square-foot processing lab that for 130 years housed the Statton furniture factory. Located across the street from a livestock auction house, the sophisticated operation now ranks among the East Coast’s largest suppliers of cannabis for the U.S. medical marijuana industry.

“Hagerstown is very depressed — one of the most economically depressed areas in the state — so we’re bringing life and jobs to this area,” said Abigail Diehl, Kind Therapeutics’ director of business development and sales. “We’re already Maryland’s largest indoor cannabis grower.”

Kind’s product lines include Kalm Fusion powdered tincture and chewable tablets in either mango lime coconut or green tea lemonade. There’s also Nature’s Heritage extracts, concentrates, and vape pens, as well as six types of LucidMood vape pens advertised online under the slogan “Elevate your mood without clouding your mind.”

Medical use legal in 33 states and D.C.

With other entrepreneurs, Diehl is betting that the expanding U.S. legalization of cannabis for medicinal use will boost sales of the company’s products to treat everything from skin cancer to multiple sclerosis (MS).

At the moment, 33 states and the District of Columbia have declared medical marijuana legal; in D.C. and 10 states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington — recreational use is also allowed, even though the federal government still considers marijuana in all its forms illegal.

Boxes of “Healer” CBD/THC cannabis drops await distribution at the Kind Therapeutics.

Internationally, Canada is now the world’s largest legal marijuana market, having legalized its cultivation and sale in October 2018 through the Cannabis Act. Uruguay became the first country to fully legalize marijuana in 2013, with sales permitted in local pharmacies.

Last month, Israel became the third country — along with the Netherlands and Canada — to allow the export of medical cannabis. Tikun Olam, which has given MariMed exclusive rights to produce its cannabis products in Maryland, is among Israel’s top cannabis producers.

“The laws are constantly changing, so it’s difficult to get an accurate number. But this is going to be a $70 billion industry in coming years,” said Diehl, whose family has been a major Maryland fruit and vegetable distributor for nearly half a century. “When the state legalized cannabis in 2016, my friends said I needed to get into this business too, so I jumped in full throttle.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made history when, in June 2018, it approved a first marijuana-derived therapy to treat any disease. In this case, the cannabidiol was Epidiolex — developed by Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals — to be given to patients with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, both severe forms of epilepsy.

“This FDA ruling speaks volumes,” Diehl said. “They’re saying, ‘guys, cannabis is not just for people who want to get high. This is a real medicine that can help everyone, including children.’”

Hype vs. data

A 2018 report, “Special Issue: Cannabis in Medicine,” found that cannabis-based productscan reduce spasticity — muscular stiffness or involuntary spasms — in MS patients.

Data from two trials, in Italy and the Czech Republic, support the idea that GW’s Sativex is effective in treating moderate to severe spasticity. The oromucosal spray is a formulated extract of the cannabis plant, and has been approved in Australia, Canada, Israel, and more than a dozen European countries.

Michael Castleman examines baby marijuana plants.

For those with cystic fibrosis, cannabis — in its edible but not smoked form — improves appetite, a key consideration since CF patients are often undernourished. Marijuana’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help reduce inflammation in the lungs, although its overall effects on those with CF remain to be seen.

Cannabis use has also generated vast interest among people with Parkinson’s disease, prompting the Parkinson’s Foundation to plan its first conference on that subject in Denver (March 6-7).

A recent studyjointly conducted by the nonprofit group and Northwestern University found that 80 percent of Parkinson’s patients report using cannabis, and 95 percent of neurologists have been asked to prescribe medical marijuana. But only 23 percent of doctors have received formal education on the subject.

“Having worked as a clinician for the past decade in Colorado — a state at the forefront of medical marijuana use — it is clear that people with Parkinson’s and their families are intensely interested in the potential of marijuana and cannabinoids in helping manage symptoms and other aspects of the disease,” Benzi Kluger, MD, a professor at University of Colorado Hospitaland co-chair of the upcoming conference, said in a recent press release.

“To date, there is more hype than actual data to provide meaningful clinical information to patients with Parkinson’s.”

Legal and financial obstacles

This is an extremely regulated industry. In Hagerstown, the premises are under constant surveillance, all plants are accounted for, and all 61 employees had to pass a criminal background check before joining Kind Therapeutics.

Castleman, one of those employees, is happy to show off Room 205, which contains around 400 cannabis plants in living soil. Down the hall is Room 212 — the drying room — which contains upwards of 2,000 plants. Here they hang for exactly 21 days, at exactly 60 percent relative humidity.

The entrance to the Hagerstown, Maryland, facility.

“We’re doing a slow cure on the flowers,” Castleman said. “A lot of companies do a ‘fast dry’ where they crank the temps up to 70 degrees and have everything dry in five days. But that degrades the integrity of the flower. Our system preserves the trichomes and increases the terpene profile.”

In partnership with Tikun Olam, Kind Therapeutics opened a seed-to-sale dispensary — known as First State Compassion — in Wilmington, Delaware, in 2015. MariMed also operates in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Illinois and Nevada, and along with GenCanna produces hemp in Kentucky.

Because medical marijuana isn’t legal nationwide, Kind Therapeutics cannot do its banking with Wells Fargo, Bank of America, or any other multistate bank in the U.S. Instead, it’s turned to Severn Saving Bank, a local institution, for about 90 percent of its financial needs.

Medical regulation is another issue.

“In some states, if you have a prescription for opioids from your doctors, you can take it to any marijuana dispensary and get cannabis instead,” Diehl said. “Yet doctors are still pushing opioids, and a lot of them are scared to touch cannabis because of the federal ban.”

Looking to the future

Maryland, Diehl said, still needs to allow for cannabis in a variety of edible forms, like gummy bears or fruit chews, because many chronic disease patients don’t want to smoke. “So they’re making food on their own” like brownies and cookies, she added, and they don’t know the concentrations to do it right.

Baby marijuana plants at the Kind Therapeutics cultivation facility.

Ryan Crandall, MariMed’s chief production officer and a veteran of the computer software industry, thinks it crucial that cannabis products be affordable as well as effective. For example, a 100 mg bottle of “Healer” tincture costs $32 and lasts one to two weeks.

“It’s a premium product at a very economical price point, because we want to get this medical product into patients’ hands economically,” he said.

Another product, known as Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), is named after the Canadian cannabis activist who developed it. RSO is notable because it’s a full-plant extract that contains higher levels of THC.

“The lion’s share of people using RSO are getting incredible medical benefits from it, and I’ve met two people in the last month alone who are on maintenance doses and have been cancer-free for years,” Crandall said. “One patient with stage 3 lung cancer was given six months or less to live. He was on chemo and his doctor recommended an RSO regime. He believes the thing that’s keeping him cancer-free is RSO.”

More than 83,000 patients are now registered with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, which entitles them to buy cannabis products at an authorized dispensary. Yet Diehl said it’s been an uphill battle to persuade county authorities to approve new dispensaries around the state — though the landscape does appear to be changing as medical cannabis gains national acceptance.

“A lot of counties just treat us as a CVS now, which is how it should be,” Diehl said in a reference to the U.S. pharmacy chain store. “Some people are still completely opposed to it, and scared that it’s an illegal drug. They don’t want dispensaries in their back yard, but things change when it hits home, when someone they love gets sick and this is going to benefit them.”

Even so, she said, “I don’t want to have it come to that just to get them on board.”

The post Medical Marijuana ‘Can Help Everyone,’ Says Director at Maryland Cannabis Facility appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Innovative ‘Mini-Brains’ May Help Boost Parkinson’s Research, Study Suggests


Researchers have developed a new way to make miniature 3D versions of the brain by using human stem cells. These new “mini-brains” will allow scientists to observe brain development, test promising new therapies, and study neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Findings were published in the study, “Induction of myelinating oligodendrocytes in human cortical spheroids,” in the journal Nature Methods.

Miniature brains, called “organoids” or “spheroids,” enable cell interaction in an environment similar to the human brain.

Prior versions already mimicked the organization of different brain cell types, but they lacked oligodendrocytes, the cells responsible for producing myelin — a protective layer of nerve fibers in the brain. Loss of myelin, or demyelination, impairs nerve cell communication and results in symptoms such as numbness, uncoordinated movement, loss of reflexes, and pain.

Researchers believe oligodendrocytes play an important but poorly understood role in demyelinating disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Including oligodendrocytes into brain organoids may help them understand how myelin is damaged and find ways to repair it.

In a collaboration between Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute, and George Washington University, the team built on a previous method to generate oligodendrocytes from human stem cells.

The scientists found that a specific combination of growth factors, called PDGF, IGF-1, and T3, enabled the incorporation of oligodendrocytes in organoids, which they named “oligocortical spheroids.”

They then showed that myelin-enhancing compounds boosted the rate and extent of myelination by oligodendrocytes, indicating that the miniature brain models may be particularly relevant in studies of new medicines to repair myelin.

The team also used the new method to generate organoids from the stem cells of patients with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, a rare, inherited condition characterized by a reduced ability to form myelin. The approach showed that the new organoids successfully modeled the features of the disease. Of significance, independent experiments at Case Western and NYSCF led to the same results with different stem cell lines.

“Spheroids provide a versatile platform for studies of myelination of the developing central nervous system and offer new opportunities for disease modeling and therapeutic development,” the researchers wrote in the study.

“Our new method gives us a clearer picture of how brain cells are functioning and interacting in diseases like multiple sclerosis or Pelizaeus-Merzbacher, and it holds great promise for the development of new therapies to restore myelination,” Paul Tesar, PhD, the study’s senior author, said in a press release, adding that he is looking forward to continuing the partnership with NYSCF.

Tesar won the 2017 NYSCF — Robertson Stem Cell Prize in recognition of his pioneering work on the use of stem cells to discover new therapies for neurological disorders. His NYSCF funding was among the various awards that enabled the study. He is the Dr. Donald and Ruth Weber Goodman Professor of Innovative Therapeutics and an associate professor of genetics and genome sciences at Case Western Reserve.

“We’re grateful for our fruitful collaboration with Dr. Tesar and thrilled that we were able to provide validation for this important technique to ensure it can be adopted by the community,” said Valentina Fossati, PhD, who led the team at NYSCF Research Institute. “We believe this new protocol will elevate research into multiple sclerosis as well as a variety of complex neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.”

Susan L. Solomon, NYSCF’s CEO, said the foundation is committed “to accelerating treatments for neurological diseases, and developing better ways for the community to use stem cells for disease research is a key part of achieving that goal. This new method grew out of a longstanding collaboration enabled by the NYSCF community, and we are incredibly proud of the work that has resulted from this partnership.”

The post Innovative ‘Mini-Brains’ May Help Boost Parkinson’s Research, Study Suggests appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Source: Parkinson's News Today