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New Hope From Old Drugs in Parkinson’s Fight


By Amy Norton


         HealthDay Reporter


THURSDAY, Aug. 31, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Scientists have discovered early hints that compounds in sure bronchial asthma medicine may be capable of fight Parkinson’s illness.

The researchers cautioned that their findings are solely a primary step. Much extra work is required earlier than they will result in any new remedy for Parkinson’s.

The compounds are referred to as beta-2 adrenergic agonists, and they’re primarily discovered in medicine that deal with bronchial asthma and sure different lung circumstances by dilating the airways. They embrace drugs corresponding to albuterol (ProAir, Ventolin) and metaproterenol.

The new research, revealed Sept. 1 in Science, discovered that the compounds seem to dampen exercise in a gene implicated in Parkinson’s illness.

“We think this is an exciting potential pathway to developing new treatments for Parkinson’s,” stated senior researcher Dr. Clemens Scherzer. He’s a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

But he cautioned towards leaping to conclusions. Doctors shouldn’t begin prescribing bronchial asthma drugs to their Parkinson’s sufferers.

A researcher who wrote an editorial accompanying the research agreed.

“The big caution here is that these are FDA-approved medications, and doctors could prescribe them off-label,” stated Dr. Evan Snyder, a professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in San Diego.

He was referring to the truth that docs are allowed to prescribe medicine for causes aside from their formally accredited makes use of.

“My worry is that people might take these drugs in an unregulated fashion,” stated Snyder.

That stated, he referred to as the brand new findings promising. “I think this is enough to justify moving toward properly done clinical trials,” Snyder stated.

Parkinson’s is a motion dysfunction that impacts almost 1 million individuals in the United States alone, in line with the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

The root trigger is unclear, however because the illness progresses, the mind loses cells that produce dopamine — a chemical that regulates motion. That outcomes in signs similar to tremors, stiff limbs, and stability and coordination issues that regularly worsen over time.

Many individuals with Parkinson’s have a buildup of protein clumps, referred to as Lewy our bodies, in the mind. They primarily include a protein referred to as alpha-synuclein.


Scientists aren’t positive whether or not that protein buildup is definitely a reason for Parkinson’s or simply “collateral damage” from the illness course of, Snyder stated.

But, he added, mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene have been implicated as one reason for uncommon, inherited instances of Parkinson’s.

According to Scherzer, there’s additionally proof that “risk variants” of the alpha-synuclein gene can contribute to extra widespread types of Parkinson’s.

Researchers are already making an attempt to develop medicine that focus on alpha-synuclein — by clearing it from the mind, for instance. Scherzer stated his group took a special strategy.

“We thought the best way to tackle this might be to ‘turn down’ the production of alpha-synuclein,” he defined.

So the researchers screened greater than 1,100 compounds — from prescribed drugs to nutritional vitamins and herbs — to seek out any that curbed exercise in the alpha-synuclein gene.

Beta-2 agonists turned out to be a winner.

Next, the researchers turned to a Norwegian database that tracks all drug prescriptions in that nation. Out of greater than four million individuals, Scherzer’s staff recognized 600,000-plus who’d used the bronchial asthma drug salbutamol (referred to as albuterol in the United States).

Overall, these individuals have been one-third much less more likely to develop Parkinson’s over 11 years, versus non-users. In distinction, Parkinson’s danger was doubled amongst individuals who’d ever used the blood strain drug propranolol (Inderal).

Propranolol is a beta-blocker — a category of medicines usually used to deal with blood strain and coronary heart illness. The researchers discovered that beta-blockers may very well improve exercise in the alpha-synuclein gene, Scherzer stated.

However, he confused, the findings don’t show that bronchial asthma medicine forestall Parkinson’s — or that beta-blockers contribute to it.

“You need a clinical trial to prove cause-and-effect,” Scherzer stated.

He did, nevertheless, warning on dashing to a medical trial. To Scherzer, it might be clever to attempt to refine the beta-2 agonist compounds, to make them simpler at dialing down alpha-synuclein.

He additionally stated any future research might give attention to Parkinson’s sufferers who carry variants of the alpha-synuclein gene which were tied to the illness.

Snyder agreed that any results of beta-2 agonists may range based mostly on people’ genetics.


The findings increase one other, extra quick query: What about Parkinson’s sufferers who’re on beta-blockers — the medicine linked to a better danger of the illness?

Both Snyder and Scherzer harassed that they need to not abandon any drugs they want for hypertension or coronary heart illness.

But, Scherzer stated, sufferers who’re involved might ask their physician whether or not there are any various drugs.


WebMD News from HealthDay


SOURCES: Clemens Scherzer, M.D., affiliate neurologist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and affiliate professor, neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Evan Snyder, M.D., Ph.D,, professor, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, San Diego; Sept. 1, 2017, Science, on-line

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