Sheffield research may help pulverise Parkinson’s

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New drugs which may have the potential to stop faulty brain cells dying and slow down the progression of Parkinson’s Disease have been identified by Sheffield scientists.

A pioneering study, which is the first of its kind, has been carried out by experts from the world-leading Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience - SITraN.

They conducted a large scale drugs trial in the lab using skin cells from people with the progressive neurological condition, which affects one in every 500 people in the UK.

The researchers tested over 2,000 compounds to find out which ones could make faulty mitochondria work normally again.

Mitochondria act as the power generators in all cells of the body, including the brain.

Malfunctioning mitochondria are one of the main reasons why brain cells die in Parkinson’s.

One of the promising medications identified though the research is a synthetic drug called ursodeoxycholic acid.

This licenced drug has been in clinical use for several decades to treat certain forms of liver disease - which means that researchers will be able to immediately start a clinical trial to test its safety and tolerability in people with Parkinson’s.

It will discover the optimum dose to ensure that enough of the drug reaches the part of the brain where Parkinson’s develops.

The extensive drug screen, which took over five years to complete, was funded by leading research charity Parkinson’s UK.

Dr Oliver Bandmann from SITraN, said: “Parkinson’s is so much more than just a movement disorder. It can also lead to depression and anxiety, and a host of distressing day to day problems like bladder and bowel dysfunction.

“The best treatments currently available only improve some of the symptoms, rather than tackle the reason why Parkinson’s develops in the first place, so there is a desperate need for new drug treatments which could actually slow down the disease.”