A new series of clinical trials have tested a remarkable experimental treatment for Parkinson’s disease that administers the drug directly to the brain through implants. Culminating in an open-lab trial, scientists have now started to test not only the efficacy of the drug, but that of the delivery method, as well.
The research was conducted by a notably large team of scientists who hail from all over the United Kingdom and Canada. These researchers come from such institutions as the University of Bristol and Cardiff University (in the United Kingdom) as well as the University of British Columbia (in Vancouver, Canada).
In this new treatment, the goal was to restore the dopamine-producing brain cells that are found to have been degraded in those diagnosed with Parkinsons’ disease. Dopamine, of course, is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate control and agility of the human anatomy. Impaired dopamine, as a result to changes among the neurons that release it, results in the motor impairments associated with Parkinson’s disease.
In the study, the research team attempted to rehabilitate those degraded neurons by increasing glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) levels.
Lead investigator Dr Alan Whone discusses what they found among patients who had been at least eight years diagnosed. He says, “We’ve shown with the Pet [positron emission tomography] scans that having arrived, the drug then engages with its target, dopamine nerve endings, and appears to help damaged cells regenerate or have a biological response.”
This is important because the efficacy of the drug, alone, did not appear to be significantly different from other existing drug trials. But the fact that we may be able to restore, reawaken, or regrow neurons to alleviate Parkinson’s disease has far greater implications for future treatments.
Indeed, neurosurgeon Prof Steven Gill, who designed the implant, reminds that this is the first time it has ever been used in a medical trial. Taking what they learned, then, he believes this technology could be a game-changer in administering all kinds of treatments aimed at treating brain conditions and ailments from tumors to stroke and more.
He comments, “This trial has shown that we can safely and repeatedly infuse drugs directly into patient’s brains over months or years through a small implanted port that emerges through the skin behind the ear.”
Furthermore, he attests that this is a “significant breakthrough” because most drugs that could work for conditions like Parkinson’s disease cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. This circumvents it to increase efficacy.