A recent study by University College London (UCL) has suggested that Exenatide, a current medication for diabetes, improves motor skills for Parkinson’s sufferers. At present, there is no known treatment for Parkinson’s disease which does more than provide symptom relief.
As of August 2017, 127,000 people in the UK live with Parkinson’s disease, suffering from impaired posture and balance, loss of automatic reflex movements as well as speech difficulties.
Whilst research is very much in its infancy stages, senior author Professor Tom Foltynie stated that the study is a “very promising finding”.
The study involved 60 participants with Parkinson’s disease injecting themselves on a weekly basis with either Exenatide or a placebo for two years on top of their usual medications. The results showed that the drug had notably improved areas such as tremors, speech and coordination. Those who had taken Exenatide scored, on average, four points higher on the motor function scale following treatment. In addition, the benefits seem to be long-lasting, as three months on from the end of the trial, the conditions of the patients subject to this treatment were still improving.
For diabetics, the drug activates hormone receptors in the pancreas to release insulin. These receptors can also be found in the brain, and, when activated, scientists believe this could prevent the advancement of Parkinson’s disease.
A representative from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), Dr Brian Fiske acknowledged that there are many uncertainties still surrounding the potential introduction of this new treatment for Parkinson’s patients. He said “The results from the Exenatide studies justify continued testing, but clinicians and patients are urged not to add Exenatide to their regimens until more is known about their safety and impact on Parkinson’s.”
Ally Taft, Partner at Medical Accident Group said “Today’s published studies mark a potentially huge step forward for Parkinson’s sufferers. Should this treatment be found to be sustainable and beneficial through further research, doctors may finally be able to halt the progression of the disease itself. This could significantly improve a Parkinson’s patient’s quality and perhaps even length of life.”
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