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Experimental Drug Offers Promise for Parkinson's Patients

  • Jessica Berman

FILE - Parkinson's patients stretch as they begin their workout in Costa Mesa, California, Sept. 16, 2013.

A new drug designed to treat diabetes is poised to enter human clinical trials as a treatment for Parkinson's disease.

An estimated 7 million to 10 million people around the world are living with Parkinson's disease, for which there is no cure. Experts expect the numbers to increase as the global population ages.

Currently, a drug called levodopa is used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's, which include severe tremors, rigid muscles and slowed movement.

The new medication, MSDC-0160, potentially slows progression of the disease, which gradually destroys neurons that produce the brain chemical dopamine.

The experimental agent appears to regulate the function of mitochondria, which are considered the power generators within cells. It restores the ability of brain cells to convert nutrients into energy, managing potentially harmful proteins. Normalizing those proteins leads to reduced inflammation and a lessening of neuronal death.

Writing in Science Translational Medicine, the authors report the agent reduced brain cell inflammation and preserved motor function in a progressive mouse model of Parkinson's. Researchers hope to begin clinical trials of MSDC-0160 next year.

"Whatever the outcome of the upcoming trial for Parkinson's, we now have a new road to follow," said Patrik Brundin, senior author of the research and director of Van Andel Research Institute's Center for Neurodegenerative Science.

Brundin also wants to investigate the effects of MSDC-0160 on Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body dementia, another form of dementia.

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