Energy supplement under study for Parkinson's disease

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Whether a supplement used by athletes to boost energy levels and build muscle can slow progression of Parkinson's disease is the focus of a North American study.

Creatine, under study for a number of neurological and neuromuscular diseases such as Lou Gehrig's and muscular dystrophy, may help Parkinson's patients by giving an energy boost to dying cells, says Dr. Kapil D. Sethi, neurologist and director of the Movement Disorders Program at the Medical College of Georgia.

"We think it may help cells that are damaged or overworked," says Dr. Sethi, a site principal investigator on the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke study. MCG hopes to recruit 45 patients for the study that will enroll 1,720 patients at 51 sites in the United States and Canada.

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Mitochondria, the powerhouse for cells, become dysfunctional in the brain, muscle and platelet cells of many patients with Parkinson's disease, Dr. Sethi says. Powerhouse dysfunction is discernible in postmortem brain studies and in muscle biopsies and measures of platelet activity in the living.

"By giving more energy to the cell, you are giving them a safety margin," Dr. Sethi says. "If a cell is dying, it takes another route and that would be surviving."

The goal is to slow progression of a disease that affects about 1 million people in North America. Hallmarks include tremors, rigidity and slowed movement. Late in the disease, the majority of patients also develop dementia and behavior disorders.

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