Protecting nerve cells (neuroprotection) from damage caused by Parkinson’s is a key component in the route to curing the condition.

Parkinson’s is what is termed a neurodegenerative condition and is characterised by the loss of dopamine producing nerve cells (or neurons) in the brain; these are main group of cells affected in Parkinson’s.

The disappearance of these neurons 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 neurons from any further damage caused by Parkinson’s is a key component in the route to curing the condition. Cure Parkinson’s funds preclinical (or lab-based) research investigating what are known as neuroprotective agents. Also, through our International Linked Clinical Trials (iLCT) programme, we have been leading the charge in testing potentially neuroprotective approaches for Parkinson’s.

Exenatide is a glucagon like peptide-1 receptor or GLP-1R agonist. This is a class of drug that has traditionally been used for treating diabetes, but has recently been repurposed as a potential treatment for Parkinson’s.

After multiple studies suggested neuroprotective properties in models of Parkinson’s, a clinical trial programme of GLP-1R agonists was initiated by Cure Parkinson’s.

Exenatide and Parkinson’s – read more about this promising line of research

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This is the strongest evidence we have so far that a drug could do more than provide symptom relief for Parkinson’s disease

Professor Tom Foltynie, lead investigator of the exenatide programme

A significant level of research on potential neuroprotective approaches for Parkinson’s has focused on the field of nerve growth factors (or neurotrophic) factors. These are naturally produced proteins that support and stimulate growth in neurons.

Since we were founded, 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-producing neurons, and those results led to a large Cure Parkinson’s co-funded clinical trial that was conducted in Bristol.

The GDNF Study

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That trial did not achieve a positive result based on predetermined measures, but it did demonstrate evidence of the biological effect of nerve growth factors, and Cure Parkinson’s has been exploring how to take research of other nerve growth factors forward.

Nerve growth factors for Parkinson’s

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