(NEW YORK, NY, September 13, 2010) A new study led by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center has identified a novel molecular pathway underlying Parkinson's disease and points to existing drugs which may be able to slow progression of the disease.
The pathway involved proteins known as polyamines that were found to be responsible for the increase in build-up of other toxic proteins in neurons, which causes the neurons to malfunction and, eventually, die. Though high levels of polyamines have been found previously in patients with Parkinson's, the new study which appeared in an early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is the first to identify a mechanism for why polyamines are elevated in the first place and how polyamines mediate the disease.
The researchers also demonstrated in a mouse model of Parkinson's disease that polyamine-lowering drugs had a protective effect.
"The most exciting thing about the finding is that it opens up the possibility of using a whole class of drugs that is already available," says Scott A. Small, MD, the senior author of the study and Herbert Irving Associate Professor of Neurology in the Sergievsky Center and in the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center. "Additionally, since polyamines can be found in blood and spinal fluid, this may lead to a test that could be used for early detection of Parkinson's."
Currently, treatments for Parkinson's can help alleviate some of the disease's symptoms, but they cannot prevent the build-up of toxic proteins and the death of neurons caused by the disease. When polyamines were scrutinized decades ago as a potential therapy against cancer, polyamine-lowering drugs were tested and have completed the Phase 1 and 2 safety stages of clinical trials. However, whether the drugs can pass through the blood-brain barrier remains to be determined and
|Contact: Karin Eskenazi|
Columbia University Medical Center