The Michael J. Fox Foundation is proactively pursuing a solution to slowing down the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is characterized by a constant loss of substantia nigra (specific cells of the brain region) which is responsible for the production of the chemical messenger dopamine.
Current Parkinson’s therapy is involves administering drugs that mimic dopamine action. However, one of the downsides of the current approach is that the treatment becomes less effective as the disease progresses. In addition, the side effects of these treatments increase as the disease advances.
The field of free radical biology is not a new one, in fact it had its beginnings about 40 years ago. One of the approaches of free radical biology involves (re)activating the NRF2 pathway in which the body up-regulates the production of antioxidant oxidants and survival genes. At the same time the activated NRF2 down-regulates fibrosis and inflammation.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation pre-clinical model is administered through an oral dose of pioglitazone and trials are underway to test whether the NRF2 activation can prevent dopaminergic nigral cell loss. If so this approach may produce a simple alternative strategy to prevent the progression of the disease in PD patients. Parkinson’s falls into a group of over 200 diseases tied to oxidative stress. If this approach is successful there may be associated benefits for the other 200 illnesses and in particular other neurodegenerative disorders.