This news is a few months old, but still worth posting -
Researchers at Iowa State University have found an essential key to possibly cure Parkinson's disease and are looking for others.
Anumantha Kanthasamy, a distinguished professor of biomedical sciences and W. Eugene and Linda R. Lloyd Endowed Chair in Neurotoxicology at the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine, has been working to understand the complex mechanisms of the disease for more than a decade and thinks he has found hope for the cure.
Parkinson's disease sufferers lack a sufficient amount of a brain chemical called dopamine.
Kanthasamy's research shows that there is specific protein that is naturally present in human brains that -- for no known reason -- kills the brain cells that make dopamine.
The cells that are being killed are the ones that produce the needed dopamine.
"We have millions of cells in our brains," said Kanthasamy, "In Parkinson's, about 10,000 of these brain cells die; no one knows why."
Kanthasamy discovered that a novel protein -- known as protein kinase-C (specifically PKCδ) - is killing the dopamine-producing cells.
Kanthasamy and his research staff discovered a compound that neutralizes the cell-killing kinase-C and allows the dopamine-producing cells to survive and function.
"With a lot of hard work, and little bit of luck, we found something important," he said. "And when you find something like this you say, 'This is great because it can be a target for developing new drugs.'"
Now, Kanthasamy's group is looking for additional compounds that also can serve to neutralize protein kinase-C. By identifying more compounds that perform the function of neutralizing kinase-C, researchers are more likely to locate one that works well and has few side effects.
This discovery is expected to provide new treatment options to stop the progression of the disease or even cure it.
The study is being funded by a Grow Iowa Values Fund grant. The goal of the grant program is to support development of technologies with commercial potential and to support the growth of companies using those technologies. Kanthasamy is working on this research with PK Biosciences Corp., an Iowa-based startup company. Funding was also provided by the National Institutes of Health.
"Once we find the compound, we need to make sure it's safe. If everything goes well, it could take about 10 years, and then we might be able to see something that will truly make a difference in the lives of people with this disorder," said Kanthasamy.
Source: Anumantha Kanthasamy
Iowa State University