Diabetes Drug Could Slow the Progression of PD

A new study published in Science Translational Medicine points towards using a diabetes treatment to slow PD progression. The research comes out of the Van Andel Research Institute’s Center for Neurodegenerative Science in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Although only tested on animal models, the diabetes drug, known as MSDC-0160, has shown incredible promise when it comes to PD. The results were so promising, that human trials have been expedited to begin this year. MSDC-0160 was originally developed by Kalamazoo, a Metabolic Solutions Development Company. Although still under investigation, it’s believed that diabetes and PD could share several of the same cellular and molecular mechanisms during progression, making these results exciting, but potentially not surprising. MSDC-0160 has also been proven to have an effect on glucose uptake mechanisms in Alzheimer’s patients, further solidifying the researcher’s curiosity when it comes to this new treatment.

“We hope this will be a watershed moment for millions of people living with Parkinson's disease. All of our research in Parkinson's models suggests this drug could potentially slow the disease's progression in people as well.”

-Senior author of the study, Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Van Andel Research Institute’s Center for Neurodegenerative Science and Chairman of the Cure Parkinson’s Trust’s Linked Clinical Trials Committee

How MSDC-0160 works

Although it’s mechanism of action still remains unclear, the drug seems to restore affected or damaged cells’ ability to convert nutrients to energy and regulates mitochondrial function. This allows cells to be better prepared and energized to fight off harmful compounds, preserve nerve cells, and decrease inflammation. Specifically, the drug targets a carrier of pyruvate, an energy molecule for all cells, and reduces its activity level. By reducing the activity level of this carrier, known as the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC), neuro-inflammation can be reduced, cellular autophagy can be returned to normal levels (or a cell’s ability to breakdown harmful or waste materials), and neurodegeneration can be slowed or blocked. These three issues are hallmarks in PD, and could lead to a further decrease in neuro-degradation of other nigral dopaminergic neurons, improving locomotion and increasing striatal dopamine levels. In the longer-term, this could lead to preserved motor function and rescued neural pathways for individuals with PD.

“This is an immensely promising avenue for drug discovery. Whatever the outcome of the upcoming trial for Parkinson's, we now have a new road to follow in search of better treatments that cut to the root of this and other insidious diseases."

-Patrik Brundin

MSDC-0160 was originally developed as an MPC modulator, and also worked as an insulin sensitizer for individuals with type 2 diabetes. In its clinical trials, it showed promise in lowering glucose levels, while also causing little weight gain and fluid retention. Although it shows promise as a diabetes treatment option, the promising results from this study have now led to the drug being rushed into human clinical trials this year. Hopefully, more information will be coming soon as these trials are underway, and could lead to a potentially new class of drugs that have the potential to slow PD progression.

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