A New Parkinson’s Therapy – Possibly
There’s a new report of progress in Parkinson’s disease, and from an unexpected direction. Well, it was unexpected for me, anyway. Parkinson’s is, famously, a condition that is driven by the steady deterioration of dopamine-rich neurons in the brain, most particularly in the substantia nigra region. An impressive amount of research over the years has gone into the study of this part of the brain and to dopamine handling in general. What sets off Parkinson’s and how to interrupt its progress are still very much open questions. It’s almost certainly a combination of genetic and environmental causes, but the details of that tangle are yet to be made clear.
This latest work, though, involves dosing a known diabetes medication, the GLP-1 agonist exenatide. That’s a peptide drug, famous among those who follow these things (I’m one) as having been derived from an active protein found in Gila monster saliva. Type II diabetes does seem to be a risk factor for Parkinson’s (as well as for Alzheimer’s), and there’s been a lot of work on the “gut-brain axis” and what’s connected to what. Exenatide has effects on appetite, crosses the blood-brain barrier to some degree, and has shown protective and growth-factor effects on neurons in vitro. So it’s certainly possible that it could have neuroprotective effects on a degenerative disorder like Parkinson’s, and this paper is the first double-blinded trial putting that idea to the test.