UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


New drug may help Parkinson’s disease by improving energy production in brain nerve cells

5 July 2016

A new study that may help Parkinson’s patients by improving energy production in brain nerve cells is ready to start at Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre (LWENC) Clinical Research Facility (CRF)

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition with no cure. Previous studies have shown that in some patients there is a disturbance of energy production in nerve cells which can lead to the production of harmful chemicals, known as ‘oxidative stress’, which can lead to nerve cell damage and is thought to be an important cause of the symptoms of Parkinson's.

Researchers from the LWENC CRF, based at UCL Institute of Neurology and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, will look at blood, cerebral spinal fluid and urine samples to assess oxidative stress in study participants who will take the EPI-589 drug twice a day for three months.

The study, led by Professor Huw Morris (Consultant Neurologist) as Principal Investigator and Dr. Vincenzo Libri (Consultant Clinical Pharmacologist and Director of the NIHR UCLH Clinical Research Facility) will investigate whether EPI-589 has any impact on the levels of an antioxidant called glutathione (GSH), made naturally by the body that decreases with aging and certain conditions, including Parkinson’s disease.

In Parkinson’s patients GSH levels are lower in the brain, specifically in the substantia nigra (the area in which dopamine cells are lost). Also, the level of reduction in GSH has been associated with Parkinson’s disease severity (less GSH, more advanced Parkinson’s).

GSH functions as a compound that clears out free radicals, molecules that are potentially toxic to cells. The build-up of free radicals contributes to oxidative stress and antioxidants such as GSH may therefore offset oxidative stress by removing free radicals.

In addition to its work as an antioxidant, GSH may support the mitochondria — the cell’s energy producers. This could prevent cell death, meaning that GSH could conceivably operate as a ‘neuroprotective’ agent — one that could slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s.

This is an ‘open label’ clinical trial, meaning all 40 participants will be given the active drug.

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