Possible new drug for Parkinson's disease

Created date

September 25th, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sheffield and the University of York in the United Kingdom (U.K.) have found that a drug commonly used to treat liver disease may in fact slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. 

Parkinson’s disease affects 1 million people in the U.S. and 127,000 people in the U.K. It is a neurological disease in which the brain stops making the neurotransmitter dopamine, and people become less able to control bodily movements and emotions. There are different forms of the disease, including one that is related to a mutation in the LRRK2 gene, which affects energy production in cells. Other types of Parkinson’s disease may also be due to cellular energy production.

Impact on dopamine cells

The drug, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), is FDA-approved for a type of liver disease called primary biliary cirrhosis and is sometimes used off-label for other liver diseases. The U.K. scientists tested UDCA in the laboratory and found that even in low concentrations, it could improve the function of dopamine cells in laboratory tests, especially in Parkinson’s models with the LRRK2 mutation. 

While these results are preliminary, the researchers are asking for fast-track approval of UDCA for clinical trials in humans. To search for clinical trials in your area, go to clinicaltrials.gov.