New Strategy Reduces Side Effects in Parkinson’s Treatment
December 10, 2015
Uncontrolled movements dramatically reduced with novel drug lead
CHICAGO — In an international study, Northwestern Medicine scientists and colleagues have identified a novel strategy for reducing the side effects of uncontrolled movement caused by the drug levodopa, commonly used to treat the stiffness, tremors and poor muscle control of Parkinson’s disease.
These unwanted movements caused by levodopa significantly diminish the quality of life for Parkinson’s disease patients.
A team lead by D. James Surmeier found neurons in the brain responsible for the side effects have a distinctive surface receptor that normally helps balance the effects of levodopa treatment. When mouse or primate models of Parkinson’s disease were given a compound that boosts functioning of this receptor, the uncontrolled motor side effects of levodopa treatment were dramatically reduced.
Surmeier is the Nathan Smith Davis Professor and chair of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The study was published Nov. 18 in the journal Neuron.
Although this new compound — an M4 muscarinic receptor positive allosteric modulator — is not currently approved for human use, it is in development with the goal of clinical trials, a Phase I trial possibly starting by 2017.
“There has been an international effort to find a drug that can be combined with levodopa to reduce the uncontrolled movement,” Surmeier said. “If clinical trials confirm our preliminary findings, the eventual drug developed could make a significant improvement in the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.”
Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the U.S., affecting more than a million people, a number expected to double by 2030. In its early stages, the primary symptom of the disease — difficulty moving — can be effectively treated by levodopa.