Injecting a naturally occurring molecule directly into the brains of Parkinson disease patients may help alleviate their symptoms, according to a report in the May issue of Nature Medicine.
In a phase 1 clinical trial, Steven Gill and colleagues injected glial cell line–derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), a protein that stimulates nerve cell growth, into the brains of five Parkinson patients. After 12–18 months, the patients’ motor skills and storage of the neurotransmitter dopamine had both improved significantly, with no serious side effects. GDNF also lessened the tremors caused by L-dopa, a drug commonly used to treat the disease.
Parkinson disease, which affects up to 1.5 million Americans a year, is characterized by the loss of dopamine neurons in the brain. Unlike surgical therapies, GDNF may protect the remaining healthy dopamine neurons from further loss, the researchers report. The approach may also be useful in other diseases, such as Alzheimer disease, that involve neurotrophic factors.
Clive N. Svendsen
Stem Cell Research Program
The Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin
Tel: +1 608 265 8668
Also published online.
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
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