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Parkinson's can be treated with a diabetes medication?
Sometimes surprising new fields of application appear for already known medicines. This also applies to a diabetes medication that apparently can also be used to treat Parkinson's. Scientists from the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research (HIH), the University of Tübingen and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Tübingen have proven this in a recent study.
According to the researchers, the metformin diabetes drug has an extremely positive effect on certain forms of Parkinson's disease. It interferes with the cells' energy balance and prevents their death, reports the research team led by Dr. Julia Fitzgerald from HIH on his current research results. These were published in the specialist magazine "Brain".
Certain protein of crucial importance
In studies on cell cultures, the Tübingen neuroscientists were able to identify a protein that plays an important role in the energy balance of cells. "We examined cells from a patient with Parkinson's and found that an important protein that regulates energy production in the mitochondria is missing," reports Dr. Julia Fitzgerald. If this protein is missing, the energy balance is permanently disturbed and this can lead to cell death and ultimately to the onset of Parkinson's disease.
Metformin protects the cells
Parkinson's is characterized by the death of nerve cells in an area of the brain that controls movement. The identified protein causes the mitochondria ("cell power plants") to produce energy consistently, regardless of the actual consumption, which also creates an excess of free oxygen radicals. This damages the cell and leads to cell aging and cell death in the long term, reports the HIH. According to Dr. Fitzgerald's metformin diabetes drug “acts like a brake here. It slows down the formation of energy and oxygen radicals and thus protects the cells from negative effects. ”
On the way to individualized medicine
According to the researchers, the results of the study are further evidence that diabetes medication appears to have a positive effect on certain forms of Parkinson's disease. Recently, an English-American research collaboration has shown that another drug can reduce movement disorders in Parkinson's patients, said Dr. Fitzgerald. The new findings are a further contribution to the development of an individualized medicine with which the underlying individual disease triggers in patients will be targeted in the future.
Hope for new treatment options
Because the cause of Parkinson's disease ultimately varies from person to person, and hereditary predispositions and environmental influences play a role in the development of the disease, explains Dr. "In the long term, our study will benefit patients whose defective energy production in the cells leads to illness," continued the neuroscientist. Parkinson's currently has no medication that can stop or slow down the disease process. Only treatment of the symptoms is possible. So far, the approximately ten million sufferers worldwide have received inadequate help. (fp)