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Nicotine - New Role in Prevention of Parkinson’s Diseas

Recent studies show that brain damage similar to that which occurs in Parkinson’s disease and be prevented by nicotine treatment. In this study, the laboratory animals// were treated with MPTP; an agent causing gradual loss of brain functions, a condition typical of Parkinson’s disease. Nicotine was chronically administered to some of the test animals for a period of 6months while the others were not given any. The former showed 25% less damage caused by MPTP than the latter.

This protective effect may explain the lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease among smokers. The results also suggest that nicotine may be useful as a potential therapy in the treatment of early-stage Parkinson’s patients.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease caused by the death of small clusters of cells in the midbrain. The gradual loss of these cells results in reduction of a critical transmitter called dopamine, the chemical messenger responsible for normal movement.

“While we would never recommend that people smoke, these results suggest that nicotine promotes the survival of dopamine-producing cells in animals with no overt Parkinson’s symptoms,” said David A. Schwartz, M.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the federal agency that provided funding for the study. “These findings also have implications for its use in slowing the progression of Parkinson’s.”

Most of the research on tobacco has focused on its detrimental health effects. However, studies conducted over the last 40 years show that the incidence of Parkinson’s disease is about 50 percent less in smokers than in the general population. “These studies were giving us clues that something in the smoke was reducing the incidence of Parkinson’s,” said Maryka Quik, Ph.D., a senior research scientist with The Parkinson’s Institute and lead author on the study.

Based on these findings, the researchers wondered what compound i
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