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Parkinson's Resources: Therapies for Mitochondrial Dysfunction

July 16, 2023

Parkinson's Resources: Therapies for Mitochondrial Dysfunction

 

This blog post is meant to serve as a stopgap measure to collect links and other resources regarding therapies for Parkinson's Disease, specifically therapies that target mitochondrial function. This page is a work in progress which I will add to over time.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Parkinson's

As PwP (people with Parkinson's), or caregivers to PwP, we may not hear about this very often, but dysfunctional or underfunctioning mitochondria (the "powerhouse of the cell" that we learned about in high school biology) have an established link to Parkinson's disease.

This summary, created by perplexity.ai, does a good job of summarizing this topic. References are included.

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that is associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondrial impairment can result from a number of causes, including impairment of mitochondrial biogenesis, increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, defective mitophagy, compromised trafficking, electron transport chain (ETC) dysfunction, and variations to mitochondrial dynamics.
1
 Mitochondrial dysfunction plays a major role in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease, and defects of mitochondrial complex-I of the respiratory chain may be particularly important
2
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 Emerging evidence indicates that mitochondrial dysfunction is closely associated with the pathogenesis of sporadic and familial Parkinson's disease
3
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 Mitochondrial dysfunction has been associated with neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease for over 30 years
4
A recent study has shown that mitochondrial dysfunction is a key pathological driver of early-stage Parkinson's disease, occurring prior to, or concomitantly with, the earliest stages of alpha-synuclein aggregation, and certainly prior to neuronal loss
5
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 Many studies have shown that mitochondrial dysfunction leads to chronic production of ROS and causes death of dopaminergic neurons,
6

If we assume that mitochondrial dysfunction is a driver of Parkinson's Disease, the natural next question is, how can this be remedied? Is there anything that we as PwP can do to help our mitochondria function better?

So far, I have come across two therapies which are non-invasive and (for most people, I think) very safe.

 

High-Dose Thiamine (Vitamin B1) for Parkinson's

Thiamine is needed in the mitochondria for the first step in ATP production. ATP is the fuel that your entire body runs on. The theory is that by flooding the body with lots of thiamine, it has the effect to "kick start" the production of ATP.

High-dose thiamine for Parkinson's is not meant to correct a thiamine deficiency, but rather to use thiamine (vitamin B1) as a medicinal treatment which overcomes the effects of under-functioning mitochondria. For this reason, it does not matter if you as a person with Parkinson's test low for thiamine levels (but if you do, that is a serious medical situation called beriberi which your doctor will probably follow up on right away). 

Here is a collection of links where you can learn more about thiamine as a Parkinson's treatment.

  • Here is the video which convinced me, personally, that I needed to give B1 for Parkinson's a try.
  • Published clinical research from Dr. Costantini, the Italian neurologist who pioneered research with thiamine for Parkinson's.
  • YouTube video with explanation of B1 for Parkinson's.
  • Book by Daphne Bryan which explains the process for implementing thiamine for Parkinson's.
  • Facebook group run by Daphne Bryan -- treasure trove of resources.
  • YouTube channel with B1 for Parkinson's information and success stories. 
  • B1Parkinsons.org Website with information about high-dose thiamine for PD. Includes members area for medical professionals.
  • YouTube channel of Dr. Costantini where you can find many before and after videos of his Parkinson's patients whom he treated with thiamine injections. Note that Dr. Costantini passed away in 2021, but there are scientists and medical professionals who continue to work to promote research of this natural therapy for Parkinson's.

As a person with Parkinson's (early onset, idiopathic), I have experienced remarkable results with B1 therapy for Parkinson's. The first changes I noticed after starting on oral thiamine HCl capsules were improved sense of smell, improved energy, and improved mood. Soon, I also noticed that doing things like holding a chef's knife to cut vegetables became much easier since I had reduced stiffness and discomfort while doing so. 

The other improvements I have experienced could fill a separate blog post, but for now I want to mention that these improvements occurred after I had been taking Sinemet for quite some time, and engaging in regular exercise (including Rock Steady Boxing) as well, and in the absence (as far as I know) of any new factors which could affect my symptoms. Thus, I am quite certain that changes I experienced were due to the addition of high-dose thiamine to my routine. 

 

Red Light Therapy (Photobiomodulation) for Parkinson's

Surprisingly, exposing the body to "red light" (especially near infrared wavelengths) has an effect on mitochondria.

I will again turn to Perplexity to provide a nice little summary with reference links included. 

Red light therapy has been found to have positive effects on mitochondrial function. Here are some key points from the search results:

  • Red light therapy increases energy production by strengthening the mitochondria, which are responsible for creating energy in cells
  • The mitochondrial electron transport chain is sensitive to red and near-infrared light, and exposure to these wavelengths can enhance ATP production
  • Red light therapy can improve mitochondrial function by promoting a higher-performing electron transport chain and dissociating harmful molecules that inhibit ATP production
  • Red light therapy stimulates the mitochondria to produce ATP, which provides a wide range of health benefits
  • Red and near-infrared light recharges the mitochondria, enhancing their activity and energy production
    In summary, red light therapy can enhance mitochondrial function and ATP production, leading to various health benefits.

For those who love to head straight for the primary sources, check out this ginormous spreadsheet filled with references to research about red light therapy. Look at columns B and C to find research that has been conducted regarding the brain and Parkinson's. Column T provides a brief, color-coded overview of research results.

There are a number of YouTube videos which provide useful overviews of photobiomodulation for Parkinson's:

 To sum up what I understand to be the current situation with red light therapy (photobiomodulation) for Parkinson's 

  1. A significant number of studies show that various wavelengths of near infrared light are beneficial for Parkinson's symptoms.
  2. A significant number of studies find that NIR light acts in a beneficial manner on the mitochondria of PD-affected animals. 
Perplexity summarizes it this way: 
Red light therapy may benefit mitochondria in Parkinson's disease by stimulating intrinsic mechanisms to boost energy production within the neuron, increasing local blood flow, and activating the release of the nerve-signaling molecule dopamine, which is abnormally low in Parkinson's Near-infrared (NIR) light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation (PBM), is absorbed by cytochrome C-oxidase in the mitochondria, which may reduce Parkinson's symptoms by restoring mitochondrial dysfunction and reducing inflammation.
.he primary mechanism of action of light is direct mitochondrial stimulation of the damaged or diseased neurons 
3

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However, the exact mechanism behind red light therapy's effect on mitochondria in Parkinson's is still under investigation, and more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits 
5

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I will add more to this page as I have time.  Formatting this blog post is a bit of a nightmare, so I apologize that this isn't prettier or easier to read. ~ Kari



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