"The best treatments currently available only improve some of the symptoms, rather than tackle the reason why Parkinson's develops in the first place, so there is a desperate need for new drug treatments which could actually slow down the disease progression," says researcher Oliver Bandmann. (Credit: Heather Buckley/Flickr)

Liver drug may slow progression of Parkinson’s

A drug currently approved to treat liver disease shows early potential for slowing the advance of Parkinson’s.

Researchers tested more than 2,000 compounds to find out which ones could make faulty mitochondria work normally again. Mitochondria act as the power generators in all cells of our body, including the brain. Malfunctioning mitochondria are one of the main reasons why brain cells die in Parkinson’s disease. The extensive drug screening took more than five years to complete.

One of the promising medications identified is a synthetic drug called ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA). This licensed drug has been in clinical use for several decades to treat certain forms of liver disease, which means that researchers will be able to immediately start a clinical trial to test its safety and tolerability in people with Parkinson’s.

Clinical trials will work towards discovering the optimum dose to ensure that enough of the drug reaches the part of the brain where Parkinson’s develops. Based on this information, larger randomized controlled trials can be carried out to assess the potential of UDCA to treat Parkinson’s.

“Parkinson’s is so much more than just a movement disorder. It can also lead to depression and anxiety, and a host of distressing day-to-day problems like bladder and bowel dysfunction,” says Oliver Bandmann, a researcher at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN).

“The best treatments currently available only improve some of the symptoms, rather than tackle the reason why Parkinson’s develops in the first place, so there is a desperate need for new drug treatments which could actually slow down the disease progression.”

The study is published in the journal BRAIN.

“We are hopeful that this group of drugs can one day make a real difference to the lives of people with Parkinson’s,” says Bandmann.

Parkinson’s UK funded the research.

Source: University of Sheffield

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