Protecting nerve cells (neuroprotection) from any further damage caused by Parkinson’s is a key component in the route to curing the condition.
Neurodegenerative conditions are characterised by the loss of cells in the brain. One of the main groups of cells affected in Parkinson’s are the population of neurons producing a chemical called dopamine.
The disappearance of these particular cells appears to be a slow and gradual process, with individual neurons in different stages of degeneration at any moment in time. Thus, when a disease halting treatment has been identified, another therapy that will protect damaged neurons and nurse them back to health will also be necessary. Protecting nerve cells from any further damage caused by Parkinson’s is a key component in the route to curing the condition. Cure Parkinson’s funds preclinical research investigating neuroprotective agents, and through our International Linked Clinical Trials programme, we have been leading the charge in testing potentially neuroprotective approaches.
A lot of research on potential neuroprotective approaches for Parkinson’s has focused on the field of neurotrophic factors. These a naturally produced proteins that support and stimulate growth in neurons.
Since our inception, Cure Parkinson’s has been supporting research centred around a neurotrophic factor called glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (or GDNF). Preclinical data demonstrated that this molecule has potent protective properties on dopamine neurons, and those result led to a large Cure Parkinson’s co-funded clinical trial being conducted in Bristol.
That trial did not achieve a positive result based on predetermined measures, but it did demonstrate evidence of biological effect and Cure Parkinson’s has been exploring how to take this approach forward.