New drug for Parkinson's shows promise

The drug targets serotonin cells inside the brain which are believed to contribute to the development of dyskinesia

An experimental drug has shown promise in the treatment of debilitating movement problems in people with Parkinson's disease.

The researchers investigated the effect of the drug NLX-112 on dyskinesia, a common side effect experienced by people with Parkinson's who have been taking levodopa-based medications for several years. Levodopa is generally used as a dopamine replacement agent for the treatment of Parkinson's.

The drug works by targeting serotonin cells inside the brain which are believed to contribute to the development of dyskinesia, by releasing dopamine in an erratic manner. It aims to reduce dyskinesia by decreasing the amount of dopamine the cells release, said the study published online in the journal Neuropharmacology.

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Over 40 symptoms of Parkinson's

The research was carried out by US-based biotech company Neurolixis with funding from Parkinson's UK, a charity. "This promising research on NLX-112 offers hope that we can find a treatment that can tackle dyskinesia, which can make everyday tasks, such as eating, writing and walking, extremely difficult," said Arthur Roach, Director of Research at Parkinson's UK. "People with Parkinson's tell us it is one of the most critical issues that impact the quality of life so we're delighted that this project is progressing so positively," Roach said.

Anyone can get Parkinson's, young or old. Parkinson's is what happens when the brain cells that make dopamine start to die. There are over 40 symptoms, from tremors and pain to anxiety. Some are treatable, but the drugs can have serious side effects. It gets worse over time and there's no cure yet.

Around half of all people with Parkinson's will experience dyskinesia after just five years of taking levodopa, and up to 80 percent of people will experience it after ten years of taking the medication.

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Drug may improve movement symptoms

In this study, the drug NLX-112 was tested in monkeys with Parkinson's-like symptoms. The monkeys had developed the side effect of dyskinesia in response to levodopa treatment in a similar way to many people with Parkinson's.

The study looked at the effect of NLX-112 both on its own and in combination with levodopa, to understand how it impacted both dyskinesia and Parkinson's symptoms. The results showed that NLX-112 successfully reduced dyskinesia and crucially, did not significantly reduce the effectiveness of levodopa, which many other similar drugs do. When NLX-112 was used on its own (without levodopa), it again improved movement problems.

These promising results suggest that NLX-112 has potential as a future treatment for not only reducing dyskinesia, but also for improving the movement symptoms of Parkinson's, said the study.