Parkinson’s Disease Discovery Delivered in a Patch

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2012-05-03 09:04

Parkinson’s disease is about loss: the loss of dopaminergic neurons that lead to a loss of motor control, as well as the loss of the ability to respond to the drugs used to treat this neurodegenerative disease. Now a discovery made by researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) could change this tradition of loss, and that change could be delivered in a patch.

Peptide patch could provide control

Parkinson’s disease, which affects more than 1 million Americans, is characterized by tremor, stiffness, impaired balanced, and slowed or frozen movements. These and other symptoms, such as mumbling speech, lack of facial expression, and not swinging the arms when walking, tend to worsen as the disease progresses.

The new discovery involved one of the recognized causes of Parkinson’s disease—gene mutation. Experts have found specific genetic mutations that appear to have a role in Parkinson’s disease. Gene mutations may be inherited or caused by various environmental exposures, such as cleaning chemicals, which are another proposed cause of the disorder.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s results from the lack of a chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine. Mutations of the gene DJ-1 can cause accelerated loss of dopamine-producing neurons. Investigators at Tel Aviv University have found a way to affect that loss.

Dr. Nirit Lev, a researcher at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and her team developed a peptide that mimics the normal function of DJ-1, which protects the dopamine-producing neurons. In tests, the peptide stopped neurodegeneration, reduced problems with movement and mobility, and resulted in higher levels of dopamine in the brain.

Treatments for Parkinson’s disease
Dr. Lev noted that “Current treatments [for Parkinson’s disease] are lacking because they can only address symptoms—there is nothing that can change or halt the disease. Until now, we have lacked tools for neuroprotection.”

Among the currently available drugs for treatment of Parkinson’s disease are the following:

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