As the number of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) continues to grow, so does the need for better treatments. While current therapies can help manage some of the symptoms of PD, they don’t always work well, and they can be expensive. Fortunately, researchers like Joon Faii Ong are hard at work developing new treatments for PD that may be more effective and cheaper.
Preventing Lewy Bodies
Doctors can perform an autopsy to learn more about the disease when someone with PD dies. One of the key findings is the buildup of Lewy bodies in the brain’s nerve cells. Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps that form inside nerve cells when pieces of another substance called alpha-synuclein stick together and fold in on themselves repeatedly.
Promising new research focuses on preventing the formation of these Lewy bodies. In a study published in 2015, researchers found that an experimental drug called J147 could help prevent the build-up of alpha-synuclein and Lewy bodies in the brains of mice with PD. The drug was able to do this by blocking the activity of an enzyme that helps create the clumps.
While this drug has not yet been tested in humans, it is a promising development that could lead to better treatments for PD in the future.
Another major focus of PD research is on targeting inflammation. Inflammation is a process that occurs when the body’s immune system responds to infection or injury. It is thought that inflammation may play a role in developing PD.
There are several different ways that researchers are targeting inflammation in PD. Some studies are looking at drugs that can block the release of inflammatory molecules. Others are investigating ways to reduce the activation of the immune system in the brain.
One study is looking at a drug called Toca 511 that targets the body’s immune system to destroy inflammation. This medication appeared to be safe and well-tolerated in patients with neurodegenerative diseases in preliminary trials. A larger randomized phase II trial is currently underway to see if it can reduce inflammation and slow PD progression.
This medication is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it may be available in the coming years as a potential new treatment for PD.
A Combination Approach
Finally, one of the newest treatments to reach clinical trials involves the use of medications that have already been developed to treat other diseases. This approach, known as a combination therapy, involves using multiple medications together to achieve a better outcome than any one medication can achieve alone.
One study is testing a combination of two drugs called amitriptyline and carbidopa/levodopa. Amitriptyline is a drug that is already used to treat depression, while carbidopa/levodopa is the most common treatment for PD. Patients will receive either the combination therapy or just carbidopa/levodopa in the study. The goal of the study is to see if the combination therapy is better at relieving symptoms and slowing disease progression than carbidopa/levodopa alone.
This study is still in the early stages, but it is another example of the exciting new treatments that are being developed for PD. With so much research taking place, we will likely see even more advances in the treatment of this disease in the years to come.