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Early Parkinson's treatment 'possible'

AAP logoAAP 8/12/2016 Sarah Wiedersehn

Early drug intervention before the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD) start to take hold may be possible, says an Australian neuroscientist.

One of the largest post-mortem brain studies in the world, funded by the Michael J Fox Foundation and Shake It Up Australia, has confirmed that a protein (LRRK2) associated with the development of the movement disorder is increased just before symptoms start showing.

This discovery, published in journal Movement Disorders, has led researchers to believe they may be able to treat Parkinson's disease sooner.

"This study has given us the most comprehensive picture to date of what is happening with the LRRK2 protein in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease," said lead researcher Nicolas Dzamkao from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA).

There is now hope the new research will lead to clinical trials on early intervention drug therapy for this disease.

"There are drugs in development that can act on LRRK2's activity, but we need to know when to give them to people and which people will most benefit from it," he said.

Parkinson's disease causes trembling, stiffness, slowness of movement and loss of fine motor control.

It affects 70,000 Australians and about 10 million people worldwide.

Dr Dzamko says targeting this specific protein "holds a lot of promise" for those with a strong family history of PD.

A mutation of the LRRK2 gene is found in people with a family background of PD and is a known genetic contributor.

Researchers at NeuRA and in London, Tokyo, Amsterdam and California mapped the expression of the protein in the brain tissue of deceased patients to give them a better understanding on how it influences the disease.

"Different parts of the brain are affected differently by PD, so we have an even better understanding of where LRK2 can be found in the brain and at what levels and how these are changed by Parkinson's disease," said Dr Dzamko.

There is also hope possible treatments may also work on those who have PD with no known cause.

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