A popular drug used to treat liver disease could actually slow down the progression of Parkinson's disease, according to scientists at the University of Sheffield.
The Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience has been looking at ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) as a potential clinical trial for those with the condition. The drug is believed to have beneficial effects on dopamine neurons, those that are affected under Parkinson's.
Dr Heather Mortiboys, Parkinson’s UK senior research fellow from the University of Sheffield, said: “We demonstrated the beneficial effects of UDCA in the tissue of LRRK2 carriers with Parkinson’s disease as well as currently asymptomatic LRRK2 carriers. In both cases, UDCA improved mitochondrial function as demonstrated by the increase in oxygen consumption and cellular energy levels.”
The research team found that mitochondrial defects exist in other sporadic forms of Parkinson's, and so it is hoped that UDCA can be used for all types of the condition. UDCA may have been used for decades to treat liver disease, but it may now have new benefits in living organisms. In fruit flies, in particular, UDCA has been seen to maintain visual response even after the LRRK2 mutation cause mitochondrial defects. The UDCA was able to slow down the rate at which the fly brains degenerated, even at relatively low concentrations.
Dr Arthur Roach, director of research and development at Parkinson’s UK, added that there is an urgent need for new treatments in the field, and so these new findings about UDCA are "extremely valuable". If effective across human trials, UDCA may be able to save hundreds of millions of pounds every year and extend sufferers' lifespans.
The study has been published in the Neurology journal.
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