Neurology Central

Antimalarial drugs could provide hope for Parkinson’s treatment

Scientists based at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), McLean Hospital (MA, USA) and Harvard Medical School (MA, USA) have recently published data in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America online, indicating that two antimalarial drugs may potentially provide an option for the effective treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

The team investigated the role of the protein Nurr1, which has previously been identified as a promising target for Parkinson’s disease. Nurr1 was identified as being instrumental in maintaining the brain’s ability to generate dopamine neurons and consequently prevent progressive loss of movement in rats exhibiting Parkinson’s disease.

Using high-throughput cell-based assays the researchers evaluated approximately 1000 FDA-approved drugs in order to identify any Nurr1 agonists. Final results indicated that two antimalarial drugs, Chloroquine and Amodiaquine, were effective against the disease.

“Nurr1 is known to be a potential drug target to treat Parkinson’s. Despite great efforts from pharmaceutical companies and academia, no one has managed to find a molecule which can directly bind to it and activate it, except for us,” Kwang-Soo Kim (McLean Hospital), one of the papers lead authors, explained.

Currently, standard treatment for Parkinson’s involves replenishing patients’ dopamine levels through medication, or administering deep-brain stimulation. Kim (McLean Hospital) however notes that these options are only able to address the patient’s symptoms in the early stages of the disease, rather than slow down or prevent disease progression.

“Our discovery brings hope for the millions of people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, as the drugs that we have found to have worked in the laboratory tests have already been used to treat malaria in patients for decades,” commented Yoon Ho Sup (Nanyang Technological University School of Biological Sciences), another lead author on the paper.

The team are now planning on manipulating the current forms of Chloroquine and Amodiaquine in order to improve their ability to target Parkinson’s disease, as well as to further investigate other pre-existing drugs that could be effective against the disease.

“Our research also shows that existing drugs can be repurposed to treat other diseases and once several potential drugs are found, we can redesign them to be more effective in combating their targeted diseases while reducing the side effects.”

Source: Kim C, Han B, Moon J et al. Nuclear receptor Nurr1 agonists enhance its dual functions and improve behavioral deficits in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(28), 8756 (2015). Nanyang Technological University press release via AlphaGalileo