Results from a mouse study have highlighted a possible new target for treating Parkinson's disease. Therapies that boost the brain's own levels of cannabinoids may work well alongside those that boost dopamine levels, suggests a paper in the 08 Feb 07 issue of Nature (Vol. 445, No. 7128, pp. 643-647).
Anatol C. Kreitzer and Robert C. Malenka gave mice displaying Parkinson's-disease-like symptoms two drugs. The first reduces the breakdown of naturally occurring brain cannabinoids; the second boosts activity at a specific type of dopamine receptor. After treatment, the animals' motor symptoms improved.
Critically, the team provides a potential mechanism for their finding. Together, the two drugs restore a specific type of cellular plasticity, known as long-term depression, where synaptic strength becomes weakened. The effect occurs in a subset of cells that resides in one of the major neural pathways controlling movement, and which is thought to be impaired in Parkinson's disease.
Robert C. Malenka (Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, CA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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