A new study has found that a drug typically used to treat liver disease can also help patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) has been proven to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease, when tested on fruit fly nerve cells containing LRRK2 genes with mutations. These mutations are one of the most common causes of inherited Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Heather Mortiboys, author on the study and member of the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience, gave a statement saying that she and her colleagues “demonstrated the beneficial effects of UDCA in the tissue of LRRK2 carriers with Parkinson’s disease as well as currently asymptomatic LRRK2 carriers”.
She went on to add that Ursodeoxycholic acid improved mitochondrial function in both cases. The proof is in the increased oxygen consumption and the increased cellular energy levels.
The researchers from Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) teamed up with researchers from the University of York for this study.
Mitochondria are known for giving cells the energy that they need to carry out tasks. The LRRK2 gene mutation causes defects in the mitochondria and leads to reduced energy levels, which in turn can trigger several illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease.
For their study, the research team fed Ursodeoxycholic acid to fruit flies with the LRRK2 mutation, through their lives. The LRRK2 gene mutation typically triggers loss of sigh in fruit flies, but the team noticed that those given the drug maintained their visual response.
Dr. Chris Elliott, member of the University of York, gave a statement of his own explaining that feeding fruit flies with Ursodeoxycholic acid pathway throughout their lives has been proven to slow down the pace at which a fly’s brain degenerates.
Dr. Mortiboys, Dr. Elliott and the rest of their colleagues hope that their study will lead to the development of novel disease-modifying therapies that can be used to treat patients with LRRK2-related Parkinson’s.
It’s worth mentioning that since Ursodeoxycholic acid has been used by doctors for decades, it would be available to Parkinson’s disease patients pretty quickly if the clinical trials show promising results. It would also save the medical community money and time resources.
The findings were published earlier this week, in the medical journal Neurology. The research team was partly funded by a charity that supports people with the disease (Parkinson’s UK), and its director is very pleased with the overall findings.
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