Why oh why oh why…June 29th, 2013 | Posted by in Uncategorized
Having just spent the last 6 months of my life training in freezing water, running cycling and generally spending any free time doing something that for the large part was not particularly enjoyable there have been a couple of questions that have run through my mind. The first is; what would I rather have as a pet? A silver unicorn that farts rainbows or a dragon that burps skittles and has butterflies for scales…. Now thinking this question made me sad….as, after much deliberation I could I not choose between either the farting unicorn or the burping dragon and to weigh heavier on my already saddened heart I started to realise it would be highly unlikely I would ever enjoy the company of either of these magnificent creatures. The second question cheered me up somewhat; why am I actually doing this My House to Your House challenge, was it the epic nature of it, the camaraderie among friends, a chance to force myself into some sort of healthy living or to put something back into society. For me personally it has been to do something that does genuinely make a difference, a real sense of achievement. If I wanted camaraderie, adventure I would be at Glastonbury…. Oh why oh why am I not at Glastonbury, ahem, did I just say that out loud, its raining any way I prefer it here… ok, so I’m gutted I’m not there but ultimately something that genuinely makes a difference is what has motivated me with the MH2YH challenge. Meeting others that are really making a difference and are working hard to cure Parkinson’s also spurs me on to achieve, surpass our fundraising goal and actually find a way of scrabbling my way over the finish line.
Last week I went to Oxford University with the Robbie Mol and Peter Tromp from TROI Studios to film the MH2YH legacy video and meet Dr Matthew Woods team with the wonderful people of Parkinson’s UK to really see where our funds are going and what it was all about. So it turns out we are the single largest donor to Dr Woods and from interviewing the head of events at Parkinson’s UK (Clare Chater) it became apparent we have changed their way of thinking how they can fund raise, never (from Clare’s memory from 7.5 years at Parkinson’s) has anyone or group of friends got together and raised so much money for Parkinson’s!
Going around Oxford university labs with no expectations was always going to be an eye opener. Two years ago I was kindly invited to visit the SBS headquarters in Poole (SAS with boats), I was expecting high-tech James Bondeske affair, not a bunch of camping equipment and a few rubber dinghies. Oxford Uni was much the same, it wasn’t that much different from varying films in some sense, I anticipated an alien jumping out of a glass cabinet a couple of rogue explosions but sadly Parkinson’s research doesn’t have much requirement for alien sample tissue or explosives. For the vast majority it was a rather standard room with some big fridges in it that didn’t look much different from a school chemistry lab. It became more apparent than ever that it is the people behind the scenes at both the SBS and Oxford University Parkinson’s funded lab, the people like Dr Woods and his team, including Martina Hellegger who kindly showed us round, are the real reason things happen not a sci-fi lab with lasers, mutated sea bass, a flux capacitor. Incidently I know Michael J Fox has done a lot for Parkinson’s but Dr Woods if you can create a flux capacitor I call shotgun first.
The more I learn about Parkinson’s the more I feel confident there will be a cure, someone just needs to find a couple of missing links to the puzzle. Drs Woods project (that we are the largest single donor too!) will look at trying to reduce the production of a protein (Alpha-Synuclein) with a specific technique named RNA interference (RNAi). Changes in the gene that makes alpha-synuclein have been linked to rare inherited form of Parkinson’s and researchers think that reducing the amount of alpha-synuclein in the brain could stop dopamine producing nerve cells getting sick and dying, it is these sick and dying dopamine-producing cells that cause Parkinson’s. Getting RNAi to the brain isn’t easy though, the blood brain barrier blocks harmful things like bacteria from getting into the brain from the blood and will also block potential treatments. Exosomes can cross the blood brain barrier and Dr Woods’s team will look to use exosomes (which normally are used to transport molecules around the body) to deliver RNAi for alpha-synuclein to a mouse brain and investigate these affects to see if RNAi will protect the dopamine-producing nerve cells. Using exosomes to deliver RNAi to the brain has exciting potential as a treatment that could slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s – something that no current treatment can do.
Although most of this technical jargon was a little tricky to decipher with GCSE biology the over-riding feeling I came away with was with hard-work dedication and funding at some stage a superior treatment will be found. Having now hit our initial target it is hoped we will considerably surpass this, one key aspect we can help with and continue to make a difference is raising funds to speed the process of delivering results and paying for researchers like Dr Woods to complete his studies at the cutting edge research lab at Oxford University.
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