Clark shared the news on Twitter: “I’ve decided to donate
my brain to the Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank. I was so impressed with the research
work being carried out when I visited the facility with [Rory Cellan-Jones]”.
Clark has already raised thousands of pounds for
Parkinson’s UK, become a celebrity ‘Champion’ for the charity, and worked to
challenge stigma surrounding the condition.
He shared a video in which Cellan-Jones, a BBC technology correspondent who also has Parkinson’s, went behind the scenes of the Brain Bank at Imperial College London’s Hammersmith campus, in the UK. Cellan-Jones spoke to Professor Steve Gentleman in the dissection room, who explained that donated brain tissue is vital to research efforts. He concluded the visit by pledging his own brain.
Clark said: “The brain is the most precious thing we have.
It contains our loves, memories and our personality. Giving it to medical
research is the greatest gift I can offer. Imagine if your brain was the one
that unlocked a cure for this devastating neurological condition?”
He also highlighted that scientific research on brains was
“essential” to finding treatments for the condition.
In the UK, National Health Service organ donation is
considered distinct from brain donation – those wishing to pledge their brain
must submit separate forms to brain banks. Imperial College London is home to the
world’s only brain bank for Parkinson’s research and receives around 120
donations each year.
Fans and members of the Parkinson’s community shared their
admiration for Clark on Twitter, and contributed stories of how family members,
or they themselves, had also pledged their brains.
Twitter user Lisa was inspired by Clark and Cellan-Jones:
Twitter user, Kathryn Dainty, said that her parents had also decided to donate their brains:
While Twitter user Katie Hofman expressed appreciation for Clark as a presenter:
Charity Parkinson’s UK voiced its gratitude for Clark’s ongoing support:
Lead image credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
The Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank
The Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank is the only brain bank in the world dedicated to Parkinson’s research. Each brain is split into 250 samples which can then be used in scientific projects. This brain tissue contributes to scientists’ understanding of the condition and the development of new treatments. Many neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s, are unique to humans which means it can be difficult to conduct research on animal brains.
The organisation accepts brains from donors with or without Parkinson’s and plans to joint-fund a new digital brain bank, allowing scientists over the world to benefit from these pledged brains.
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New insights on immune cell process and Parkinson’s disease
Insoluble clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein, which can cause damage to brain cells, have been previously linked to Parkinson’s. Now, scientists in Germany, France and the US have uncovered new details on how brain cells respond to these clusters. The researchers discovered that the brain’s immune cells may be able to join together to break down the protein clumps. According to a press release, this was previously unknown. They also found that these neighbouring cells share mitochondria – structures that generate energy for chemical reactions – to help one another. In certain mutations associated with Parkinson’s, this process may be impaired. The researchers hope this insight could inform the development of new therapies. “We have opened the door to a field that will certainly engage researchers for many years to come,” said Professor Dr Michael Heneka, director of the Department of Neurodegenerative Diseases and Geriatric Psychiatry at the University Hospital…
Could analysing skin oil help diagnose Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease patients tend to have high levels of oil, known as sebum, on their skin’s surface. Now, a study has suggested that analysing this substance may help when diagnosing the condition. The study revealed that sebum contains significant amounts of genetic material, specifically the molecule ribonucleic acid (RNA). Analysis of RNA contained in sebum – that is, skin surface lipids RNA, or SSL-RNA – could offer insights into a person’s health. Researchers in Japan examined SSL-RNA in men and women with and without Parkinson’s. The results suggested that the SSL-RNA profiles of those with Parkinson’s had “different characteristics” than those without. The researchers then tested whether examining these profiles with machine learning could reveal those who had Parkinson’s – and who didn’t. The team’s algorithm indicated a “relatively robust discriminatory ability,” supporting the further use of SSL-RNA as part of a future “non-invasive” method for diagnosis.
‘Sonic hedgehog’ protein could impact Parkinson’s disease dyskinesia
Dyskinesia is often caused by extended use of the common Parkinson’s medication levodopa – and can be debilitating for those with the condition. Now, researchers in the US may have found a way to suppress these involuntary movements through a protein called ‘sonic hedgehog’. To conduct their study, the team administered levodopa and sonic hedgehog agonists to rodent and non-human primate models of the condition. The results revealed that dopamine neurons use the protein to communicate with other neurons thought to play a role in levodopa-induced dyskinesia. Increased signalling of sonic hedgehog pathways was found to reduce this dyskinesia – providing “novel insight” into its formation and a “potential therapeutic solution”. “What we find,” wrote corresponding study author Professor Andreas Kottmann, “is that in several animal models, by replacing … dopamine together with agonists that mimic the effects of sonic hedgehog, these dyskinesias can be very much suppressed.”