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Compound Found to Alleviate Parkinson's Symptoms

Tuesday, 27 Aug 2013 03:03 PM

By Nick Tate

Johns Hopkins researchers have identified a compound that eases Parkinson's disease symptoms in mice — findings that challenge conventional scientific beliefs about the origins of the illness and may lead to new ways to combat the debilitating condition.

In a new report published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the John Hopkins team said they have identified what goes awry in the brain during Parkinson's disease have also determined long-held believes about the role of a particularly protein — considered key to the disease's progress — may be wrong.
"Not only were we able to identify the mechanism that could cause progressive cell death in both inherited and non-inherited forms of Parkinson's, we found there were already compounds in existence that can cross into the brain and block this from happening," said Valina Dawson, director of the Stem Cell Biology and Neuroregeneration Programs at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Institute for Cell Engineering (ICE).

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"While there are still many things that need to happen before we have a drug for clinical trials, we've taken some very promising first steps."
The new research by Dawson and her husband, Ted Dawson, M.D., concerns the function of an enzyme called parkin, which malfunctions in the disease, leading to a buildup of proteins believed to play a role in Parkinson's.
The Dawsons collaborated with National Cancer Institute researchers in studies of genetically modified mice that enabled them to examine the role of defective parkin and excess levels of other proteins, in the development of Parkinson's patients.
The researchers found the excess proteins raised the risk of Parkinson's symptoms in the mice and that a particular compound that blocks their production alleviated the condition.
"Not only did the compound protect dopamine-making neurons from death, it also prevented behavioral abnormalities similar to those seen in Parkinson's disease," said co-researcher Yunjong Lee.
The researchers noted drug companies are now testing experimental medicines based on the compound and others designed to block the key proteins tied to Parkinson's and protect healthy cells.
Although the new research findings are encouraging, Valina Dawson noted many hurdles will need to be overcome before the compounds can be tested in clinical trials that could lead to wider use among patients.

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