Parkinson’s disease could be treated by light, new research suggests.
Drugs that are activated by bright rays may significantly improve tremors in patients, a Spanish study found.
The finding could signal hope for the 145,500 people in the UK and one million in the US with Parkinson’s. It is unclear how much such medication would cost or when it may be available.
Light-activated drugs enable medication to be delivered to specific areas of the brain, which minimises side effects. They also allow greater control over when drugs are given, which helps ensure patients properly respond to them.
Although early days, the researchers envision such drugs being alongside light-generating patches that patients can control from their smartphones.
Parkinson’s affects around one in every 350 adults in the UK. Approximately one million suffer in the US.
A light-activated drug could offer a novel way of treating Parkinson’s disease (stock)
WHAT IS PARKINSON’S? THE INCURABLE DISEASE THAT STRUCK BOXER MUHAMMAD ALI
Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, and around 127,000 people in the UK live with the condition.
Figures also suggest one million Americans also suffer.
It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.
It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.
Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.
There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.
The disease claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016.
Drug could be controlled via smartphones
The drug, known as MRS7145, blocks specific receptors called adenosine A2As, which have previously been associated with Parkinson’s.
It is only activated when it is exposed to a specific wavelength of light.
The researchers first showed MRS7145 responds to light when in cells expressing adenosine A2A receptors.
They then implanted optical fibres into the area of mice’s brains that is affected by Parkinson’s. Optical fibres transmit light.
The researchers, from the University of Barcelona, stress it is still early days and there is a long way to go before light-activated drugs can be used in humans.
They add, however, the use of smartphones to control drug release may overcome adherence issues that commonly occur in long-term conditions.
The findings were published in the Journal of Controlled Release.
Researchers envision light-generating patches that can be controlled via smartphones (stock)
Arthritis and asthma medication reduces the risk of Parkinson’s
This comes after research released last month suggested arthritis and asthma medication reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease by up to one-third and could pave the way for a new treatment.
People who take corticosteroids, which are commonly prescribed for asthma, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis, are 20 per cent less at risk of suffering tremors, a study found.
IMDH inhibitors, which are used to treat arthritis, Crohn’s and organ transplant rejection, reduce people’s risk of developing Parkinson’s by around a third, the research adds.
Lead author Dr Brad Racette, from the University of Washington, said: ‘We’ve found that taking certain classes of immunosuppressant drugs reduces the risk of developing Parkinson’s.
‘Our next step is to conduct a study with people newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s to see whether these drugs have the effect on the immune system we’d expect.’
Although unclear, Parkinson’s may be caused by an overactive immune system, which the drugs work to reduce.