From diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease to remission of non-motor symptoms through expression of antioxidant genes.
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 severe urinary urgency.
At the time of diagnosis I was told that the causes of Parkinson’s disease were unknown, but as a research scientist, I analysed the published research for myself. I discovered that many researchers were convinced that oxidative stress in neurons, combined with a failure of mitochondrial function, were strong candidates for the basic cause of Parkinson’s disease. This was backed up by considerable experimental evidence.
Oxidative stress in neurons is normally controlled by gene transcription involving a 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, leaving some neurons particularly susceptible to damage, malfunction and even death.
Many researchers have demonstrated that sulforaphane, a molecule that can be made from broccoli seeds, increases the activity of Nrf2, reduces oxidative stress and improves mitochondrial function in neurons. The choice of seeds, the preparation process, 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 six months later I began using experimental doses of Nrf2 activators to stabilise my own Parkinson’s disease. Since then, the severity of my non-motor symptoms has been reduced to the point of remission through experimentation with broccoli seed teas containing sulforaphane. In November 2020, I shared these observations with other Parkinson’s patients which resulted in a pilot study by 8 Parkinson patients. The results of this study strongly suggested that in some patients 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 are caused by different processes or conditions. This developed into my 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 may result from imperfect reorganisation of brain connections to work around the reduced functional capacity of the striatum. By exploiting these ideas, I now consider my Parkinson’s disease to be potentially stabilised in its present state, where sulforaphane controls the cause of non-motor symptoms. On the other hand, I still require dopamine replacement therapy (Levodopa) to control motor symptoms.
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, however, it did suggest for the very first time that individual Parkinson’s disease symptoms respond may respond differently to treatment. We now intend to explore this idea further.
Together with a small group of People with Parkinson’s, in September 2022, I launched the “Broccoli and Sulforaphane Research Group for Parkinson’s Disease.” The principle aim of this group will be to study the effects of Broccoli Seed Tea and Sulforaphane on Parkinson’s disease from an entirely new perspective: One Symptom At a Time (OSAT). The reasoning behind OSAT is to consider that people with the same dominant symptom of Parkinson’s disease represent a more homogenous group than those with a spread of symptoms and should respond to any therapy in a more coherent way. Furthermore, this approach enables us to select those symptom groups that have the greatest effect on people’s Quality of Life. We believe that the OSAT approach could reveal individual breaches in the symptom response of Parkinson’s disease to therapies which are hidden by the global (averaged) symptom approach used in most clinical trials until now. Our first OSAT self-experimentation study will be looking at:
The Impact of Broccoli Seed Tea on Urinary Urgency
We selected Urinary Urgency (UU) because of its severe impact on people’s quality of life but also because few people talk about it.
Dr Albert F Wright