A drug commonly used to help control multiple sclerosis (MS) could lead to a new treatment for Parkinson's disease.
Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Augusta University found that the metabolite of dimethylfumarate (DMF) could slow the progression of Parkinson's disease in the early stages.
The oral drug has a metabolite called monomethylfumarate (MMF) that is able to increase activity of a key protein that helps the body protect itself from inflammation and stress, common hallmarks of both Parkinson's and MS.
It was also observed that MMF could prevent commonly caused side effects of DMF, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and a brain infection called encephalopathy.
Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the study notes that these side effects can often exacerbate problems people with Parkinson's disease experience.
Dr John Morgan, neurologist, neuroscientist and Parkinson's disease specialist in the MCG Department of Neurology, said Parkinson's causes the death of nerve cells in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as affecting the brain.
The fact that MS and Parkinson's both cause a similar change in the same pathway has generated interest about whether drugs for MS could work for Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Researchers now want to see if they can replicate these findings, shown in animal models, in patients with early stages of Parkinson's disease. As the metabolite is already approved for use for MS, it could be easily developed into a treatment if it has the same impact in clinical trials.
Studies are planned in the UK to further observe the impact of the drug's metabolite and what would be the best approach for future treament.
"If we can catch them early enough, maybe we can slow the disease," Dr Morgan said. "If it can help give five to eight more years of improved quality of life that would be great for our patients."
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