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A promising new lead in the fight against Parkinson’s disease

Today, many research projects are aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of drugs already available for other diseases to treat Parkinson’s disease.

A product commonly used to treat gallstones has shown great promise for treating Parkinson’s disease, at least in animal models, over the past decade or so. So much so that this product is now being tested in humans, with apparently interesting effects!

Let’s see how it works and what evidence there is of its effectiveness so far.

UDCA is a naturally occurring bile acid that is used in the treatment of gallstones. Recently, several research groups have demonstrated that this medication also has beneficial properties in models of Parkinson’s, which has led to the initiation of clinical trials to see if this treatment should be re-positioned for used in PD.

UDCA is a molecule naturally present in bile. It is currently used to treat gallstones. However, researchers have shown that UCDA has properties that go far beyond its primary function.

This molecule is also able to block programmed cell death, particularly of dopaminergic neurons. In Parkinson’s disease, the death of these neurons is partly explained by a dysfunction of the mitochondria (the lungs of the cells). Once this essential part of the cell is damaged, the cell starts a process of self-destruction.

This news led to the study of this molecule directly in people living with the disease in the United States (Minnesota). Last month, the results of this study were published. The researchers showed that this molecule is safe and well tolerated by patients. They also suggest, through clinical evaluations and brain imaging techniques, that UDCA has a place in the arsenal of drugs that can prevent disease progression.

A Phase II study, conducted on a small number of patients, is currently underway. The entire Parkinson’s community is eager to see the results of this research.

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