Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), which is an active compound in a wide range of common liver disease drugs, may also help us treat Parkinson’s disease, a new study suggests. The acid proved highly efficient in inhibiting mutations to a gene dubbed LRRK2, which are responsible for the disease.
The discovery was made by a research team at the University of York and the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience in England. Researchers noted in a paper published this week that the liver disease drug had “beneficial effects” in both patients that were already diagnosed with Parkinson’s and those that had the gene mutations but the disease displayed no symptoms.
Dr. Heather Mortiboys of the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience explained that the drug boosted cellular energy levels and improved oxygen absorption at cellular level. Those outcomes signaled that the overall performance of mitochondria was significantly improved.
Mitochondria help cells to reach high energy levels so they can perform their daily tasks. If mitochondria is flawed due to a genetic mutation those levels drop dramatically and the nervous system may develop all sorts of diseases including Parkinson’s.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reported that half of million people are currently affected by Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. The condition’s common symptoms are shaking limbs and slow movement which can get even slower in later years.
Dr. Oliver Bandmann, co-author of the study, explained that not all types of Parkinson’s disease are caused by a mutation in the LRRK2 gene. Other forms of the disorder are inherited or simply appear with no apparent cause. Yet, Dr. Bandmann hopes that the liver disease drug may also help patients with those unusual forms.
During their research, scientists tested the drug’s efficacy on fruit flies. On the other hand, these tiny creatures do not develop Parkinson’s. Instead if their LRRK2 gene is affected they lose their vision by the end of their lifetime. The team gave ill insects UCDC and learned that the drug prevented them from going blind.
University of York’s Dr. Chris Elliott who was also involved in the study said that the drug slowed down brain degeneration in fruit flies. So, researchers concluded that drugs that try to prevent mitochondria flaws are the most effective in treating Parkinson’s cases triggered by a mutation in the LRRK2.
Dr. Bandmann is optimistic because if UDCA also works on humans it may very soon be approved to treat Parkinson’s because it is a compound that already received FDA’s approval for treating certain liver diseases.
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