Anti-malaria drugs could potentially be used to treat Parkinson’s disease, a team of scientists from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the United States said on Thursday.
The discovery came from a multi-year research partnership between Professor Kwang-Soo Kim from McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the United States and Associate Professor Yoon Ho Sup from NTU’s School of Biological Sciences.
Almost a thousand drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were tested before two anti-malaria drugs – Chloroquine and Amodiaquine – were identified as being potentially able to treat Parkinson’s disease.
During laboratory tests, the scientists found that activating a cluster of proteins called Nurr1 could improve the condition of rats who had symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Activating Nurr1 “protects the brain’s ability to generate dopamine neurons”, said a press release from NTU.
Parkinson’s disease disrupts the body’s production of dopamine neurons, which affects an individual’s motor movements, such as his or her ability to move her limbs.
“Our research… shows that existing drugs can be repurposed to treat other diseases and once several potential drugs are found, we can redesign them to be more effective in combating their targeted diseases while reducing the side effects,” said Yoon.
Speaking to The Online Citizen, Yoon said that it was still very early days in the search for a cure for Parkinson’s disease, but that this discovery provided new information for further research and testing.
The team is now looking into identifying more drugs that might be able to halt and reverse the onset of the disease. They also intend to modify both Chloroquine and Amodiaquine so that better drugs for Parkinson’s disease can be produced, and to carry out clinical trials with these modified drugs.