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University of Helsinki reports that current drug treatment for Parkinson’s disease aims to increase the level of dopamine, or to increase the activation of dopamine receptors, in the brain. Over time though, the effectiveness of such treatments decreases because of nerve degeneration.

Ideally, the key would be to find a way to halt the progression of the degeneration of dopamine nerves. As promising as a recent study was in its beneficial effects of using this approach, the study was stopped because of adverse effects suffered by the study group. The drug, conserved dopamine neurotopic factor (CDNF), showed great promise in a study of rats injected with a toxin that causes a progressive degeneration of dopamine nerve receptors. By injecting the rats with CDNF the destruction of the dopamine nerve receptors prevented degeneration typically demonstrated.

The clinical trials on GDNF indicates that neurotophic treatment for neuro-degenerative diseases does work. What is needed is a drug that is as effective as GDNF in preventing degeneration of dopamine nerve receptors, but that can be better tolerated by patients.