There are a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases including Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. These conditions typically affect the older population. As the world’s population ages, more people are being diagnosed with these illnesses and the search for effective treatments has become more desperate.
In healthy people, a mechanism called autophagy works to rid the body of toxic materials. In those with neurodegenerative conditions, this mechanism is not working properly. As a result, misfolded proteins build up in the brain and cause damage to the brains nerve cells. This damage is irreversible.
Currently, there are no treatments on the market which work to support autophagy function in this population of patients. But, a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge and the UK Dementia Research Institute has shown great potential for a new possible therapy. The research team actually investigated a drug developed to treat hypertension. Their results indicated it may be able to be repurposed for neurodegenerative conditions. It’s called Felodipine.
One of the great benefits of repurposing old drugs is that the timeline to get the drug on the market for the new condition is typically much shorter. Since the drugs safety has already been confirmed for its first indication, things can move more quickly.
Previous studies have shown that there may be a link between Felodipine and a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s. But Doctor David Rubinsztein believed it may also be capable of inducing autophagy for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases.
To examine this, Rubinsztein and his team utilized mice models with Huntington’s and Parkinson’s as well as a zebrafish model with a type of dementia. With a pump underneath the skin of the mice the researchers were able to control the concentrations of Felodipine that were administered. While most studies with mice use doses of drugs that are higher than could be safe for humans, this study purposefully used a concentration similar to what would be tolerable for patients.
The drug, at a tolerable dose, was found to be effective in both the mice and the fish, reducing aggregate buildup and signs of disease. Essentially, it was able to slow down progression of the conditions. It is the first approved drug documented to have this effect.
Hopefully, we will see a clinical trial initiated for this potential treatment soon. If the drug is shown to have the same effect in humans as it did in the animals, this treatment could become a new option for neurodegenerative disease patients.
The results from this study with mice were published in Nature Communications.
“We need to be cautious, but I would like to say we can be cautiously optimistic.”
You can read more about this investigation here.