Molecule BT13 may offer hope for a new treatment that could stop or slow Parkinson’s, researchers from the University of Helsinki suggest.
According to the researchers, molecule BT13 has the potential to both boost levels of dopamine, the chemical that is lost in Parkinson’s, as well as protect the dopamine-producing brain cells from dying.
Results from a study, co-funded by Parkinson’s UK and published recently in Movement Disorders, suggest an increase in dopamine levels in the brains of mice following the injection of the molecule. BT13 also activated a specific receptor in the mouse brains to protect the cells.
Typically, by the time people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, they have already lost 70% to 80% of their dopamine-producing cells, which are involved in coordinating movement.
While current treatments mask the symptoms, there is nothing that can slow down its progression or prevent more brain cells from being lost, and as dopamine levels continue to fall, symptoms get worse and new symptoms can appear.
Researchers are now working on improving the properties of BT13 to make it more effective as a potential treatment which, if successful, could benefit people who are living with Parkinson’s, a media release from Parkinson’s UK notes.
The study builds on previous research on another molecule that targets the same receptors in the brain, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), an experimental treatment for Parkinson’s. While the results were not clear cut, GDNF has shown promise to restore damaged cells in Parkinson’s.
However, the GDNF protein requires complex surgery to deliver the treatment to the brain because it’s a large molecule that cannot cross the blood-brain barrier — a protective barrier that prevents some drugs from getting into the brain.
BT13, a smaller molecule, is able to cross the blood-brain barrier — and therefore could be more easily administered as a treatment, if shown to be beneficial in further clinical trials, per the release.
“People with Parkinson’s desperately need a new treatment that can stop the condition in its tracks, instead of just masking the symptoms,” says Professor David Dexter, Deputy Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK.
“One of the biggest challenges for Parkinson’s research is how to get drugs past the blood-brain barrier, so the exciting discovery of BT13 has opened up a new avenue for research to explore, and the molecule holds great promise as a way to slow or stop Parkinson’s.
“More research is needed to turn BT13 into a treatment to be tested in clinical trials, to see if it really could transform the lives of people living with Parkinson’s,” he adds.
Dr Yulia Sidorova, lead researcher on the study, states that, “We are constantly working on improving the effectiveness of BT13. We are now testing a series of similar BT13 compounds, which were predicted by a computer program to have even better characteristics.
“Our ultimate goal is to progress these compounds to clinical trials in a few coming years.”
[Source(s): Parkinson’s UK, EurekAlert]