Doctors have identified a brain injury that has caused a patient’s Parkinson’s disease to deteriorate over the course of the disease, but have yet to determine whether it’s the result of an accident or a natural condition.
In a study published in the journal Neurology, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) showed that when a patient who has Parkinson’s first shows symptoms of the condition, it appears as if their brain may be damaged.
The study involved the brains of more than 700 patients with the disease who were treated with drugs that inhibit the body’s ability to make dopamine, a neurotransmitter that affects dopamine production.
They were all found to have evidence of dopamine damage in the regions of the brain that control emotions and other brain processes, according to a news release.
It is unclear whether the damage is caused by the drugs themselves or the patient’s brain chemistry, but the findings could have implications for future research into Parkinson’s treatments.
It’s unclear if the damage occurs before or after the drugs were administered, or if the drugs have any impact on the brain before or when they are administered.
Doctors can treat Parkinson’s by taking drugs that slow down dopamine levels in the brain, such as dopamine antagonists or dopamine agonists.
However, the drug side effects are very severe, and the symptoms of Parkinson’s worsen the longer a person stays on the drug.
Dr Ramesh Kumar, lead author of the study, said:”We’re not sure if this is a side effect of the drugs or if it’s caused by an underlying brain disorder.”
The drugs that block dopamine, which is produced by the brain’s reward system, are already being used widely to treat Parkinson, including to treat the disease in people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s patients who have lost a limb.
The findings are consistent with studies done on people with Parkinson that show that patients who were already taking dopamine agonist medications experienced worsening of symptoms over time, Kumar said.
He said that in these patients, there was a consistent reduction in the levels of dopamine in their brains, and this may be due to the drugs’ effects on the reward system.
The scientists said there was no evidence that dopamine is the cause of the worsening of Parkinson symptoms in the study.
But they added that more studies needed to be done to better understand the relationship between the drugs and the condition.
Dr Kumar said that the findings of this study may have implications beyond Parkinson’s treatment.
“If the dopamine system isn’t properly working properly, and it starts to weaken, it can cause symptoms that are more severe than what people would normally see,” he said.
“It may be that this dopamine loss could be an underlying cause of these symptoms.”
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, but there are treatments for the symptoms, which include lowering blood pressure, increasing energy and reducing seizures.
People with Parkinson also need medication to help manage symptoms and have some quality of life.
The drugs used in this study were called D-cycloserine and L-cyclohexen-3-amine, which were both used to treat patients with Alzheimer and Parkinson, respectively.
Dr Aliza Meehan, of the Parkinson’s Disease Society’s Research Centre, said the findings were “quite encouraging”.
“They’re showing that the drugs that are currently used to help patients with dementia are able to treat this condition, but that it may take a few years before they have any real effect on Parkinson’s,” she said.
“This is good news because this will give us a better idea of what the treatment will look like.”
Dr Kumar also said that a similar study from his group has also shown that dopamine agonism may be able to slow the progression of Parkinson disease, though this may take longer than D- cycloserine or L- cyclohexenten-2-amine.
“We hope that we’ll be able, with the new imaging techniques, to develop new drugs that can target both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” he added.
Follow Tim Firth on Twitter: @TimFirthAAPTopics:clinical-sciences,medical-research,diseases-and-disorders,labor,longevity,latin-america,united-statesFirst posted March 04, 2019 12:24:22Contact Tim Faith