Diabetes drug could help Parkinsons sufferers

04 Août, 2017, 15:21 | Author: Cyril Hebras
  • In Parkinson’s dopamine-producing cells become damaged so preventing this could help stop the progression of the disease

People with Parkinson's who took Exenatide - an existing diabetes medication - for around a year had better motor skills than those who took a placebo. This research did not determine conclusively whether the drug modified the disease, however, so this will be investigated more fully in the next stage.

Parkinson's disease, which affects 127,000 people in the United Kingdom, causes progressive damage to the brain over time and cells that produce dopamine hormone - a chemical that helps control body movement - are lost.

"This is a very promising finding, as the drug holds potential to affect the course of the disease itself, and not merely the symptoms", said the study's senior author, Professor Tom Foltynie, a consultant neurologist at the NHNN.

'With existing treatments, we can relieve most of the symptoms for some years, but the disease continues to worsen'.

The patients injected themselves once a week for 48 weeks with either Exenatide or a placebo, in addition to their regular medications. Symptoms typically don't become apparent until over 70% of the brain's dopamine-producing cells have been affected.

Professor Foltynie said Exenatide acts on a receptor in the brain that helps neurons survive by reducinhg inflammation and boosting the mitochondria that powers them.

Over a period of 48 weeks, the control group continued to decline (as would be expected) but those taking exenatide remained stable and showed less degeneration in brain scans. The advantage of 4 points, on a 132-point scale of measures such as tremors, agility and speech, was statistically significant.

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David Dexter, deputy director of research at Parkinson's United Kingdom, said: 'These interesting results build upon an earlier, smaller trials and offer further encouragement that diabetes treatments could provide new treatments for Parkinson's in the future'.

The study - the first randomised controlled trial of the drug in Parkinson's patients - adds to previous research which suggested the drug could improve motor function and modify the course of the disease.

The research is published in The Lancet today (FRI) and was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF).

"Using approved therapies for one condition to treat another, or drug repurposing, offers new avenues to speed Parkinson's therapeutic development", commented Dr Brian Fiske, senior vice president of research programmes at MJFF. "We also hope to learn why exenatide appears to work better for some patients than for others", said the study's first author, Dr Dilan Athauda (UCL Institute of Neurology).

Whether exenatide affects the underlying disease or just its symptoms is uncertain, the researchers say.

Parkinson's disease affects 1 in 500 people and is the second most common neurodegenerative disease worldwide. The condition results in muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue and an impaired quality of life.

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