Curtailing downside of Parkinson’s drug

CARDIFF U. (UK) — An overactive pathway inside nerve cells that can be ‘turned down’ has the potential to halt or reduce the uncontrollable movements called dyskinesia, a side effect of a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

While the drug, Levodopa, is one of the best treatments available, dyskinesia is a main problem, causing involuntary movements where bodies distort or arms or legs jerk uncontrollably.

A new study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dyskinesia is different from the resting tremor that is usually associated with Parkinson’s and is one of the most distressing side effects of taking Parkinson’s drugs, making the disease even more challenging.

The study shows how a chain of events inside nerve cells called the Ras-ERK pathway becomes hyperactive and leads to dyskinesia. Researchers were able to stop dyskinesia in animal models by turning down the activity of two key parts of this overactive pathway.

“Our work will pave the way for effective new treatments that can reduce or prevent dyskinesia,” says Riccardo Brambilla, professor of biosciences at Cardiff University.

“The challenge will be to target and block the right nerve cells in the brain which cause dyskinesia, without interfering with the positive benefits of Levodopa.”

The international study involved researchers from Sweden, France, Italy, and China and was co-funded by several partners, including Parkinson’s UK and the Michael J Fox Foundation.

“We know just how distressing and widespread dyskinesia can be.  This research is an important step forward in the search for better treatments that will make a real difference to the quality of life and confidence of thousands of people with Parkinson’s,” adds Kieran Breen, director of research and development at Parkinson’s UK.

“At Parkinson’s UK we are committed to funding research to find a cure for Parkinson’s and to find new and kinder drug treatments with fewer side effects and tackling the cause of dyskinesia would be a major step forward towards this goal.”

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