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Wayne State Researcher Gets $2.15M NIH Grant To Develop Parkinson’s Treatments

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Aloke Dutta
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DETROIT — A Wayne State University professor is leading research efforts to develop new treatment options to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects nearly six million people around the world, with 50,000 to 60,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States alone each year.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may include tremor, slowed motion, rigid muscles, difficulty initiating movement, speech changes, postural instability and more.

Currently no ideal therapies are available for slowing the degeneration process while relieving symptomatic abnormalities associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Aloke Dutta, professor of pharmaceutical sciences in WSU’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is hoping to change that with a recently awarded $2.15 million research grant, Novel Neuroprotective Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease, from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health.

Dutta and his team aim to develop multifunctional therapeutic agents that will be useful not only in symptomatic treatment of Parkinson’s disease, but also as disease-modifying agents promoting survival of the dopamine neurons that would otherwise gradually degenerate in Parkinson’s disease.

According to Dutta, the etiology of Parkinson’s disease is poorly understood, but both oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction resulting from loss of glutathione coupled with increased concentration of free iron have been strongly implicated in dopamine cell death. In this regard, alpha-synuclein, a protein involved in fibrillization, has also been connected to Parkinson’s disease.

“It is increasingly evident that for a complex disease such as Parkinson’s, a drug targeting only one specific site will only partially address the therapeutic needs of the disease,” said Dutta. “A growing body of literature suggests that suitable multifunctional drugs might be more effective to act as disease modifying agents. The overall goal of our research is to develop multifunctional therapeutic agents which will be useful not only in symptomatic treatment, but also as disease-modifying agents promoting survival of dopamine neurons.

“Our initial studies indicate facile blood-brain barrier crossing ability of such compounds developed by us,” said Dutta. “The lead drugs we are developing have shown positive results in animal models of Parkinson’s disease, and one of our lead molecules is exhibiting a neuroprotection property that may be critical to slowing the further progression of Parkinson’s disease while being symptomatically beneficial in alleviating motor dysfunction.”

The team aims to begin pre-clinical validation of these treatment agents soon. If results are positive, Dutta’s study would shift the current research paradigm of Parkinson’s disease by expanding treatment beyond that of acute motor defects stemming from dopamine deficiency.

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