Scientists continue to research Parkinson's disease in the hope that some of their research findings will have clinical application in the form of new treatment options.

New Treatments on the Horizon

In a paper published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, Robert A. Hauser, MD, reviewed the potential future of Parkinson's treatment options. Hauser says it's difficult to develop effective therapies to treat physiological and cognitive impairments once the disease advances. The key is to uncover therapies that stop or slow Parkinson's progression (called neuroprotective treatments) from an early stage.

Hauser describes several categories of new treatments. A2A antagonists, for example, are a new class of non-dopaminergic medications that seem to demonstrate some neuroprotective effects.

Finding new ways to deliver levodopa, one of the most widely used Parkinson's medications, might increase its effectiveness. For example, scientists have developed a new gel that combines levodopa and carbidopa (called LCIG), which the patient can self-infuse. The information to date suggests that LCIG is highly effective for treating motor fluctuations and dyskinesias. Parkinson's experts are also exploring gene therapy and are testing potential new antiparkinsonian and antidyskinesia medications.

Two other potential treatment options are under scrutiny: disease-modifying agents and neural transplants. Disease-modifying agents are substances that elevate the level of uric acid, which is inversely associated with the risk for Parkinson's, and slows the progression of Parkinson's disease. Neural transplants take advantage of the discovery that the most significant neuronal degeneration in Parkinson's patients occurs in well-defined areas that scientists can target with treatments. However, study results to date have not shown a benefit from neural transplants.

Accelerating Progress

Organizations such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation sponsor initiatives to speed the process of new treatment development. For example, the Fox Foundation is sponsoring the Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), an observational research study to identify biomarkers of disease progression. Biomarkers are substances or characteristics in the body associated with disease. They provide a target for potential new medicines.

The Fox Foundation is also co-sponsoring The Parkinson's Disease Therapeutics Conference, an annual event that connects academics who are studying the disease with the pharmaceutical industry. The goal is to accelerate the rate at which they turn scientific findings into potential therapies.

Scientists are making progress. In his review, Hauser writes, "More sustained antiparkinson's benefit is close at hand, antidyskinesia medications are moving forward, and neuroprotective/neurorestorative therapies are on the horizon."



Michael J. Fox Foundation. "Parkinson's Progression Marker Initiative." Web.

Michael J. Fox Foundation. "Frequently Asked Questions." Web.

Stetka, Bret, MD, and Tanner, Caroline M., MD, PhD. "What Causes Parkinson Disease?" Medscape Medical News. Web. 2 July 2012.

Hauser, Robert A. "Future Treatments for Parkinson's Disease: Surfing the PD Pipeline." International Journal of Neuroscience 121 (2011): 53-62, 2011. Web.

Herpich, Nate. "PD Therapeutics 2012: Upcoming Foundation Event Compels Collaboration in the Search for Novel Parkinson's Drugs." Michael J. Fox Foundation. Web. 2 October 2012.