Longtime antidepressant could slow Parkinson's

September 5, 2017 by Tim Collier , Sarina Gleason, Michigan State University
Credit: Michigan State University

Michigan State University scientists now have early proof that an antidepressant drug that's been around for more than 50 years could slow the progression of Parkinson's.

In a proof-of-concept study, published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, the nortriptyline, which has been used to treat depression and nerve pain, stopped the growth of abnormal proteins that can build up in the brain and lead to the development of the .

"Depression is a very frequent condition associated with Parkinson's, so we became interested in whether an antidepressant could modify how the disease progresses," said Tim Collier, lead author of the federally funded study and a neuroscientist at MSU.

Collier and collaborator Katrina Paumier, an assistant professor of molecular medicine, began looking at previous patient data to see if individuals who were on antidepressants experienced any delay in their need to go on a standard Parkinson's therapy called levodopa. This type of therapy increases levels of dopamine, a natural chemical in the body that sends signals to other nerve cells and can significantly decrease in cases of Parkinson's.

The medication also treats many of the symptoms associated with the disease such as tremors and poor muscle control.

"We found that those on a certain class of antidepressant, called tricyclics, didn't need the levodopa therapy until much later compared to those who weren't on that type of antidepressant medication," Collier said.

Collier then began testing rats with the tricyclic antidepressant nortriptyline and found that it indeed was able to decrease the amount of that can build up in the brain. This , known as alpha-synuclein, can cause the brain's to die when in a clustered state and is a hallmark sign of the disease.

To further back up his research, he enlisted the help of his colleague and co-author Lisa Lapidus, who in previous studies had already detected whether certain compounds could bind to alpha-synuclein and stop it from accumulating.

"Proteins are constantly moving and changing shape," said Lapidus, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. "By using a test tube model, we found that by adding nortriptyline to the alpha-synuclein proteins, they began to move and change shape much faster, preventing the proteins from clumping together. The idea that this clustering effect is controlled by how fast or slow a protein reconfigures itself is typically not a standard way of thinking in research on proteins, but our work has been able to show these changes."

Understanding how these proteins can clump together could point researchers in new directions and help them find other possible drugs that could potentially treat Parkinson's.

"What we've essentially shown is that an already FDA-approved drug that's been studied over 50 years and is relatively well tolerated could be a much simpler approach to treating the disease itself, not just the symptoms," Collier said.

Collier is already looking for funding for the next phase of his research and hopes to lead a human clinical trial using the drug in the future.

Explore further: A new insight into Parkinson's disease protein

Related Stories

A new insight into Parkinson's disease protein

July 28, 2017
Abnormal clumps of certain proteins in the brain are a prominent feature of Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases, but the role those same proteins might play in the normal brain has been unknown.

Drug discovery: Alzheimer's and Parkinson's spurred by same enzyme

July 3, 2017
Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease are not the same. They affect different regions of the brain and have distinct genetic and environmental risk factors.

Re­search­ers cor­rect Par­kin­son's mo­tor symp­toms in mice

December 15, 2016
A research group led by University of Helsinki Docent Timo Myöhänen has succeeded in correcting the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease in mice. These results are promising in terms of treatment, since Parkinson's ...

Parkinson's is partly an autoimmune disease, study finds

June 21, 2017
Researchers have found the first direct evidence that autoimmunity—in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues—plays a role in Parkinson's disease, the neurodegenerative movement disorder. The findings raise ...

Balance and movement improved in animal model of Parkinson's disease

June 12, 2017
Researchers at UCLA have developed a molecular compound that improves balance and coordination in mice with early stage Parkinson's disease. Further, the drug, called CLR01, reduced the amount of a toxic protein in the brain ...

CRISPR tech leads to new screening tool for Parkinson's disease

June 5, 2017
A team of researchers at the University of Central Florida is using breakthrough gene-editing technology to develop a new screening tool for Parkinson's disease, a debilitating degenerative disorder of the nervous system. ...

Recommended for you

New method maps the dopamine system in Parkinson's patients

February 14, 2018
With the aid of a PET camera, researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have developed a new method for investigating the dopamine system in the brains of patients suffering from Parkinson's disease. The method measures ...

Mechanism behind common Parkinson's mutation discovered

February 5, 2018
Northwestern Medicine investigators have discovered how a gene mutation results in buildup of a toxic compound known to cause Parkinson's disease symptoms, defining for the first time the mechanism underlying that aspect ...

Tactic for controlling motor symptoms of advanced Parkinson's disease

January 25, 2018
Standard drug treatment for Parkinson's disease can over time induce motor complications that reduce the effectiveness of restoring mobility. These complications include abnormal involuntary movements known as dyskinesias. ...

A new therapeutic avenue for Parkinson's disease

January 23, 2018
Systemic clearing of senescent astrocytes prevents Parkinson's neuropathology and associated symptoms in a mouse model of sporadic disease, the type implicated in 95% of human cases. Publishing in Cell Reports, researchers ...

Investigators eye new target for treating movement disorders

January 19, 2018
Blocking a nerve-cell receptor in part of the brain that coordinates movement could improve the treatment of Parkinson's disease, dyskinesia and other movement disorders, researchers at Vanderbilt University have reported.

Parkinson's disease 'jerking' side effect detected by algorithm

January 8, 2018
A mathematical algorithm that can reliably detect dyskinesia, the side effect from Parkinson's treatment that causes involuntary jerking movements and muscle spasms, could hold the key to improving treatment and for patients ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.