More ongoing Parkinson’s disease research
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke points out scientists are unraveling the mysteries of Parkinson’s disease on several additional fronts as they pursue innovative ways to potentially diagnose and treat PD:
- The drug isradipine: This calcium channel blocker has long been used to treat high blood pressure, and studies revealed people who take the drug have a reduced risk for developing Parkinson’s disease. Isradipine, which seems to have a protective effect on brain cells that make dopamine, is being tested to see if it can help treat and halt progression of PD in early cases of the disease, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
- Gene therapy: Scientists are studying whether gene therapy with glial derived neurotrophic factor (a protein that may help protect dopamine-producing nerve cells) can improve the health and function of neurons that produce dopamine in advanced cases of Parkinson’s disease.
- Drugs that target mitochondrial function: The mitochondria are specialized structures inside cells often called cellular energy factories — and they may an important role in PD. Parkinson’s disease research has found hundreds of genes involved in mitochondrial function are less active in people with Parkinson’s. Scientists are investigating drugs that target genes involved in mitochondrial function to see if the medications can slow progression of the disease.
- Deep brain stimulation (DBS): The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) helped develop DBS, which involves sending electrical impulses through implanted electrodes to specific targets in the brain in order to relieve movement symptoms of Parkinson’s. DBS is a treatment option for some PD patients whose symptoms no longer respond to Parkinson’s disease medications. Researchers are investigating the optimal sites for implanting DBS electrodes within the brain to help even more people with Parkinson’s regain function.
- Environmental studies: Repeated occupational exposure to certain pesticides and other chemicals is believed to play a role in the development of PD. An NINDS-sponsored research group is looking for specific environmental risk factors that increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s before age 50.
March 16, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN