The Patient Researcher and Parkinson’s Disease

Dr Albert F Wright
The Patient Researcher

From diagnosis to remission of non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease through selective gene activation by sulforaphane from broccoli seeds.

How it started…

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2018, but had many of its invisible but debilitating symptoms for years before that. These included acute and painful fatigue, daytime sleepiness, poor sleep with vivid dreams, confusion, balance problems and urinary urgency.

At the time of diagnosis I was told that the causes of Parkinson’s disease were unknown, but as an experienced research scientist, I looked into the published research for myself. I quickly learned that many researchers were convinced that oxidative stress in neurons, combined with a failure of mitochondrial function were strong candidates and this was backed up by considerable experimental evidence.

Oxidative stress in neurons is normally controlled by a very complex process involving a genetic signalling protein called Nrf2. In healthy people, Nrf2 controls the expression of hundreds of genes that combat oxidative stress in cells by releasing antioxidant molecules and enzymes which rapidly neutralise oxidizing molecules (also called Reactive Oxygen Species or ROS). With increasing age, the activity of Nrf2 declines and oxidative stress increases.

Many researchers have demonstrated that sulforaphane, a molecule that can be made from broccoli seeds, increases Nrf2, reduces oxidative stress and improves mitochondrial function in neurons. The choice of seeds, the dosing regime and the delivery method are all critical to getting a good result

I began researching how to increase Nrf2 in June 2019 and a few months later I was able to use experimental doses of Nrf2 activators to slow down the progression of my own Parkinson’s disease. Over a period of 20 months, the severity of my non-motor symptoms has been reduced to the point of remission through experimentation with sulforaphane made from broccoli seeds. In November 2020, I initiated a pilot study by 8 Parkinson patients, the results of which strongly suggested that many non-motor Parkinson’s symptoms responded rapidly to a tea made from broccoli seeds, whereas motor symptoms were unaffected in the short term.

The contrasting responses of motor and non-motor symptoms to sulforaphane suggests that these 2 symptom groups may be caused by different processes or conditions. This developed into the hypothesis that non-motor symptoms might be caused by oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in the axons of dopaminergic neurons in the striatum, whereas motor symptoms more likely result from imperfect reorganisation of brain connections to work around the reduced capacity of the striatum. By exploiting these ideas, I now consider my Parkinson’s disease to be potentially in a state of remission.

And where it’s going

The study by 8 Parkinson’s Patients that is reported in other posts on this site shows that when a small group of People with Parkinson’s disease coordinate their efforts they can make progress to understand their disease. This very small study had many limitations such as the choice of seeds, the method of seed preparation, the study design and the number of participants. All of these limitations can be resolved for the next program.

To go further will require studies on a much larger number of participants, a more professional approach, a rigorous design and a controlled delivery method. We understand that this will be very difficult without institutional support and outside funding, but the recent indication that a state of remission from non-motor symptoms might be a possibility gives cause for new hope.

Dr Albert F Wright