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Over 120,000 people in the UK suffer from Parkinson’s disease, and currently, there is no cure. Sufferers have to cope with the symptoms of the disease and treatments include medication and physical therapy, but little is known about what causes the condition to develop and how to stop it.

However, a recent medical breakthrough means that it may be possible to stop the progression of the disease. Currently, drugs can help to manage the symptoms but nothing prevents the brain cells from dying. In Parkinson’s disease, there is a loss of nerve cells in the brain and this leads to a reduction of the chemical dopamine. It’s the loss of dopamine which causes the majority of Parkinson’s symptoms, but it is still unknown what causes the loss of nerve cells. The most common symptoms include a tremor, slow movement and memory problems.

First clinical trial

Researchers from University College London (UCL) conducted a trial of Parkinson’s patients for 48 weeks, where half were given a new drug to add to their medication, and half were given a placebo. The drug being tested is called exenatide and is already used for treating people with type 2 diabetes. It is also being tested for other neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

After the 48 weeks, the patients who had not been taking exenatide had seen a decline in their condition, while those who were taking it were stable. Moreover, three months after treatment stopped the half which had taken exenatide were still better off compared to those who were given the placebo. The findings offer hope that a drug could be used to slow down the course of Parkinson’s, but further research is needed to test its long-term benefits.

The findings

The trial on exenatide for Parkinson’s has been encouraging and the findings quite exciting, but as the research is still in the very early stages we should be cautious. In this 48 week trial, the findings were positive, but Parkinson’s is a very slow progressive disease so there will need to be further trials over a longer period of time to see how effective the drug can be.

Currently, there is no treatment for slowing down Parkinson’s disease or helping people recover from it – we can only manage the symptoms. Therefore this offers hope that a drug could be used to slow the course of Parkinson’s and allow sufferers to live longer and healthier independent lives.

If you or a family member suffer from Parkinson’s disease, get information and support from https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/.

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On August 20, 2017
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