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New treatment targeting versatile protein may protect brain cells in Parkinson's disease
Date:5/16/2014

In Parkinson's disease (PD), dopamine-producing nerve cells that control our movements waste away. Current treatments for PD therefore aim at restoring dopamine contents in the brain. In a new study from Lund University, researchers are attacking the problem from a different angle, through early activation of a protein that improves the brain's capacity to cope with a host of harmful processes. Stimulating the protein, called Sigma-1 receptor, sets off a battery of defence mechanisms and restores lost motor function. The results were obtained in mice, but clinical trials in patients may not be far away.

By activating the Sigma-1 receptor, a versatile protein involved in many cellular functions, levels of several molecules that help nerve cells build new connections increased, inflammation decreased, while dopamine levels also rose. The results, published in the journal Brain, show a marked improvement of motor symptoms in mice with a Parkinson-like condition that had been treated with a Sigma-1-stimulating drug for 5 weeks.

This treatment has never before been studied in connection with Parkinson's disease. However, various publications linked to stroke and motor neurone disease have reported positive results with drugs that stimulate the Sigma-1 receptor, and a biotech company in the US will soon begin clinical trials on Alzheimer's patients. The fact that substances stimulating this protein are already available for clinical use is a major advantage, according to Professor M. Angela Cenci Nilsson, head of the research team at Lund University.

"It is a huge advantage that these substances have already been tested in people and approved for clinical application. It means that we already know that the body tolerates this treatment. Clinical trials for Parkinson's disease could theoretically start any time". Boosting the brain's in-built defence mechanisms with approaches like this is a rather new idea in Parkinson's research. Professor Cenci
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Contact: M. Angela Cenci Nilsson
Angela.Cenci_Nilsson@med.lu.se
46-462-221-431
Lund University
Source:Eurekalert

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