New findings bring hope for possible Parkinson's disease cure

Nov 03, 2009
ISU researchers' findings bring hope for possible Parkinson’s disease cure
Anumantha Kanthasamy at Iowa State University has found an essential key to possibly cure Parkinson's disease and are looking for others. Kanthasamy has been working to understand the complex mechanisms of the disease for more than a decade and thinks he has found hope for the cure. Credit: ISU photo by Bob Elbert

Researchers at Iowa State University have found an essential key to possibly cure Parkinson's disease and are looking for others.

Anumantha Kanthasamy, a distinguished professor of biomedical sciences and W. Eugene and Linda R. Lloyd Endowed Chair in at the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine, has been working to understand the complex mechanisms of the disease for more than a decade and thinks he has found hope for the cure.

Parkinson's disease sufferers lack a sufficient amount of a called dopamine.

Kanthasamy's research shows that there is specific protein that is naturally present in human brains that -- for no known reason -- kills the brain cells that make dopamine.

The cells that are being killed are the ones that produce the needed dopamine.

"We have millions of cells in our brains," said Kanthasamy, "In Parkinson's, about 10,000 of these cells die; no one knows why."

Kanthasamy discovered that a novel protein -- known as (specifically PKCδ) - is killing the dopamine-producing cells.

Kanthasamy and his research staff discovered a compound that neutralizes the cell-killing kinase-C and allows the dopamine-producing cells to survive and function.

"With a lot of hard work, and little bit of luck, we found something important," he said. "And when you find something like this you say, 'This is great because it can be a target for developing new drugs.'"

Now, Kanthasamy's group is looking for additional compounds that also can serve to neutralize protein kinase-C. By identifying more compounds that perform the function of neutralizing kinase-C, researchers are more likely to locate one that works well and has few side effects.

This discovery is expected to provide new treatment options to stop the progression of the disease or even cure it.

The study is being funded by a Grow Iowa Values Fund grant. The goal of the grant program is to support development of technologies with commercial potential and to support the growth of companies using those technologies. Kanthasamy is working on this research with PK Biosciences Corp., an Iowa-based startup company. Funding was also provided by the National Institutes of Health.

"Once we find the compound, we need to make sure it's safe. If everything goes well, it could take about 10 years, and then we might be able to see something that will truly make a difference in the lives of people with this disorder," said Kanthasamy.

Parkinson's disease strikes around 50,000 people each year, and there are approximately 1 million people with the disease. Parkinson's sufferers include actor Michael J. Fox and former boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

As people grow older, the cells that produce dopamine naturally die, causing dopamine levels to fall gradually over time. When the levels continue to drop below 60 to 70 percent, the person will start to have Parkinson's disease symptoms, according to Kanthasamy.

"Everybody has a little Parkinson's in theory," he said. "But you can't see it until the level of dopamine gets too low."

Eliminating the symptoms of Parkinson's disease doesn't require people to be restored to 100 percent of previous dopamine levels, but only to a fraction of that.

"If you can bring up to the 40-50 percent level, you'll see a functioning, normal person," he said.

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson's and available therapies only treat the symptoms.

Major contributing factors for getting Parkinson's disease include prolonged exposure to metals or pesticides and other environmental chemicals, according to Kanthasamy.

Symptoms of include trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement; and impaired balance and coordination. As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Because the disease typically affects people over the age of 50, the National Institutes of Health anticipates the incidence of Parkinson's will increase as the nation's population ages.

Source: Iowa State University

Explore further: Nigeria death shows Ebola can spread by air travel

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Widely used cholesterol-lowering drug may prevent progression

Oct 29, 2009

Simvastatin, a commonly used, cholesterol-lowering drug, may prevent Parkinson's disease from progressing further. Neurological researchers at Rush University Medical Center conducted a study examining the use of the FDA-approved ...

Parkinson's: Neurons destroyed by 3 simultaneous strikes

Apr 29, 2009

In a study that reveals the clearest picture to date of neuron death in Parkinson's disease, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have found that a trio of culprits acting in concert is responsible for killing ...

Recommended for you

Liberia closes borders and steps up Ebola screening

28 minutes ago

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has announced the closure of most of the Ebola-hit country's land borders, with stringent medical checks being stepped up at airports and major trade routes.

Global impact of the Ebola outbreak

2 hours ago

The Ebola virus has been spreading in West Africa since March, but the current outbreak over the past few weeks has reached new heights and elevated the crisis. More than 650 people have died, and in recent days it was learned ...

S.Korea detects second foot-and-mouth case

4 hours ago

South Korea on Monday reported its second case of foot-and-mouth disease in less than a week, triggering fearful memories of a devastating 2011 outbreak that forced the culling of millions of livestock.

User comments : 0