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Scientists at the University of Houston (UH) have discovered what may possibly be a key ingredient in the fight against Parkinson's disease.

Affecting more than 500,000 people in the U.S., Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system marked by a loss of certain nerve cells in the brain, causing a lack of dopamine. These dopamine-producing neurons are in a section of the midbrain that regulates body control and movement. In a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling (CNRCS) demonstrated that the nuclear receptor liver X receptor beta (LXRbeta) may play a role in the prevention and treatment of this progressive neurodegenerative disease.

"LXRbeta performs an important function in the development of the central nervous system, and our work indicates that the presence of LXRbeta promotes the survival of dopaminergic neurons, which are the main source of dopamine in the central nervous system," said CNRCS director and professor Jan-Åke Gustafsson, whose lab discovered LXRbeta in 1995. "The receptor continues to show promise as a potential therapeutic target for this disease, as well as other neurological disorders."

To better understand the relationship between LXRbeta and Parkinson's disease, the team worked with a potent neurotoxin, called MPTP, a contaminant found in street drugs that caused Parkinson's in people who consumed these drugs. In lab settings, MPTP is used in murine models to simulate the disease and to study its pathology and possible treatments.

The researchers found that the absence of LXRbeta increased the harmful effects of MPTP on dopamine-producing neurons. Additionally, they found that using a drug that activates LXRbeta receptors prevented the destructive effects of MPTP and, therefore, may offer protection against the neurodegeneration of the midbrain.

"LXRbeta is not expressed in the dopamine-producing neurons, but instead in the microglia surrounding the neurons," Gustafsson said. "Microglia are the police of the brain, keeping things in order. In Parkinson's disease the microglia are overactive and begin to destroy the healthy neurons in the neighborhood of those neurons damaged by MPTP. LXRbeta calms down the microglia and prevents collateral damage. Thus, we have discovered a novel therapeutic target for treatment of Parkinson's disease."

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  • this is great news, but what does all this mean? is this an actual treatment, possibly a cure for the disease? any clinical trials to sign up for? this is an awful disease and i think i speak for everyone who suffers from this disease, and their caretakers, that it's about time they discovered bec we need a cure, like now........... thanks for the info. tina

    i hope this doesn't take another 5 + yrs to help people. the meds they have out even tho provide temp relief, do have some nasty side effects and will eventually wear off quickly and even will stop working on you after awhile. in my case diag at 40 progressed so very fast in 3 yrs, take meds every2 hrs, and sometimes for quite a few hrs pretty much every day they dont even work. i cant do anything but sit around or sleep and just wait for them to kick in, even tho the are short lived. where did u get this info anyway?

  • It was posted on facebook by National Parkinson's Foundation. I understand your frustration. As soon as I think I have one PD related symptom under control, a new one will start. There has to be a better way of treating this disease than the current medical regimines.

  • Great info! Thank you! Very doubtful that we will see i in our lifetime. But hopefully these types of things they are researching will be helpful for an upcoming generation! Does it seem to others out there that there is more and more PD everyday being diagnosed? Or is it just because I have it and am more aware because of sites like this! SOOOO much PD! TOOOO much PD!

    Carol

  • Great news! Have they done any clinical trials?

  • I really don't know anymore than what is posted here, I am sure there will be clinical trials, and yes, it will probably be too late to help most of us.

    Racing, my 19 yr old son (the "scientist") tells me how "rare" PD is, that I am the only person he knows of with the disease. My experience, once I open up to people, most everyone will tell me they have a relative or know someone with PD.

  • Susie,

    PD is not rare. I have PD, and everyone I know (including myself), knows someone who has the disease.

    Too bad these discoveries won't be beneficial to any of us who currently lives with this dreadful thing.

  • Yes, it is not rare. I told my son he was ill informed to make such a remark, he was comparing it to heart disease, etc. which affect a lot more people. Just because it is not as common does not make it "rare". Again, since my diagnosis, most everyone I know has someone in their life affected by PD. My disability attorney's mother had PD, she had been very active in her care and treatment. I think that gave her an insiders view of what I was going through and made her a better advocate.

    I know we all wish that something could be used to help us before it is too late. An aquaintance of mine took their parent to Vanderbilt recently to be evaluated for DBS, they said he was "too far gone". NOT words any of us want to hear...

  • No PD is not rare. It is more common than first thought. It is just not talked about much. It is more well known since M J Fox went public with his diagnosis. I pray that research comes up with a cure or at least better treatment before I lose my husband to the effects of PD.

  • I know that we all want better treatment, I think if pharmaceutical companies don't want a cure to be found. They are making a lot of money off of us all...

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