Sheffield drug study gives hope to disease sufferers

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Researchers in Sheffield have found a potential new way of reversing some of the effects caused by one of the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s disease.

Mutations in a gene called LRRK2 carry a well-established risk for Parkinson’s disease - however, the basis for this link is unclear.

The researchers, led by Dr Kurt de Vos from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience, and Dr Alex Whitworth, a biomedical scientist at Sheffield University, found that certain drugs could fully restore movement problems in fruit flies carrying the LRRK2 Parkinson’s mutation.

The drugs - called deacetylase inhibitors - reverse the defects caused by the faulty gene within nerve cells.

Dr Whitworth said: “We could not only prevent movement problems, but also fully restore movement abilities in fruit flies who already showed impaired movement marked by a significant decrease in both climbing and flight ability.”

The LRRK2 gene produces a protein that is known to bind to the microtubules, nerve cells’ transport tracks.

A defect in this transport system could contribute to Parkinson’s disease.

Dr De Vos said: “These are very promising results which point to a potential therapy. However, further studies are needed to confirm that this rescue effect also applies in humans.”

And Dr Beckie Port, from Parkinson’s UK which helped to fund the study, said the study ‘gives hope’ to Parkinson’s patients.