Possible breakthrough in Parkinson's treatment

18 January 2017 08:06

Tracy Pollan and Michael J. Fox attend A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's gala to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation at the Waldorf Astoria on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Tracy Pollan and Michael J. Fox attend A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's gala to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation at the Waldorf Astoria on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Researchers at Cambridge University may have made a breakthrough in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, according to preliminary findings.

The study - led by academics from the Centre for Misfolding Diseases - uncovered a naturally-occurring compound found to block the process thought to lie behind the disease.

Although the scientists stress further research is needed, the findings give hope to people who suffer from the debilitating condition.

Parkinson's disease progressively damages part of the brain over many years and is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra.

Symptoms of Parkinson's include involuntary shaking, stiff and inflexible muscles, and slow movement.

Anyone suffering with Parkinson's disease can take out specific medical travel insurance for essential cover when travelling abroad.

Squalamine

One of the authors of the report, Michele Vendruscolo, of Cambridge University, said: "This is an encouraging step forward in our efforts to discover potential drugs against Parkinson's disease."

Scientists discovered that squalamine, a steroid which was discovered in the 1990s in dogfish sharks, can suppress the toxicity of the poisonous particles that lead to Parkinson's.

Professor Christopher Dobson from St John's College at Cambridge University is also one of the report's authors.

"To our surprise, we found evidence that squalamine not only slows down the formation of the toxins associated with Parkinson's disease, but also makes them less toxic altogether," he said.

"If further tests prove to be successful, it is possible that a drug treating at least some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease could be developed from squalamine.

"We might then be able to improve on that incrementally, by searching for better molecules that augment its effects."

The use of the compound has been extensively investigated as a potential anti-infective and anti-cancer treatment.

A trial in Parkinson's patients is now being planned.

Discovery is 'lead rather than treatment'

Despite the breakthrough finding, it is possible the discovery of the compound is only the first step in finding a treatment for the condition and its symptoms.

"In many ways squalamine gives us a lead rather than a definitive treatment," added Prof Dobson.

"Parkinson's disease has many symptoms and we hope that either this compound, or a derivative of it with a similar mechanism of action, could alleviate at least some of them.

"One of the most exciting prospects is that, subject to further tests, we might be able to use it to make improvements to patients' lives, while also studying other compounds with the aim of developing a more powerful treatment in the future."

 

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