The current issue of Progress, a publication of the Parkinson's UK society, contains the following interesting article about a possible benefit from a diabetes drug.
Recently, a group of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes, called thiazolidinediones (TZDs), have shown exciting potential to protect against nerve cell death. They also seem to boost the number of mitochondria inside cells. Mitochondria are the energy-producing 'batteries' inside cells that become damaged in Parkinson's.
Mitochondria are often described as cellular batteries. They produce the energy that powers our cells. If they become damaged, cells may struggle to function and eventually die.
Crucially, damaged mitochondria are found inside the affected nerve cells in Parkinson's. Current research now points to a small cluster of proteins inside the mitochondria, known as 'complex I', which may be the key to nerve cell death in Parkinson's.
"People who work with pesticides are known to be slightly more likely to develop Parkinson's," says Prof. Michael Duchen, University of London. "Now we think this is because chemicals in the pesticides damage the vital complex I proteins inside the mitochondria of dopamine-producing nerve cells.
"With this project we plan to further investigate these mitochondial problems and test whether they can be reversed by TZDs.
"We've already grown nerve cells in the lab and treated them with a pesticide called rotenone. Next, we'll examine in detail how the mitochondria are damaged and whether TZDs can reverse or repair the damage.
"If we find that TZDs have potential for Parkinson's, this could lead to the development of new treatments that can actually prevent the nerve cells from dying. And because TZDs are already used to treat type 2 diabetes, it may
not be long until they can be tested in people with Parkinson's."