Possible New Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

May 2, 2012

  A Tel Aviv University  researcher  and  movement disorders specialist at Rabin Medical Center Dr. Nirit Lev, is developing therapy to halt symptoms in Parkinson’s patients.
 The ability to modify the activity of DJ-1 could change the progress of the disease, she says. Working in collaboration with Profs. Dani Offen and Eldad Melamed, Dr. Lev has now developed a peptide which mimics DJ-1’s normal function, thereby protecting dopamine- producing neurons. What’s more, the peptide can be easily delivered by daily injections or absorbed into the skin through an adhesive patch.
Parkinson’s disease, a disorder which affects movement and cognition, affects over a million Americans, including actor Michael J. Fox, who first brought it to the attention of many TV-watching Americans. It’s characterized by a gradual loss of neurons that produce dopamine. Mutations in the gene known as DJ-1 lead to accelerated loss of dopaminergic neurons and result in the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms at a young age., Based on a short protein derived from DJ-1 itself, the peptide has been shown to freeze neurodegeneration in its tracks, reducing problems with mobility and leading to greater protection of neurons and higher dopamine levels in the brain.
Dr. Lev says that this method, which has been published in a number of journals including the Journal of Neural Transmission, could be developed as a preventative therapy. Preserving dopamine-producing neurons can mean the difference between living life as a Parkinson’s patient or aging normally, says Dr. Lev. In pre-clinical trials, the treatment was tested on mice utilizing well-established toxic and genetic models for Parkinson’s disease. From both a behavioral and biochemical standpoint, the mice that received the peptide treatment showed remarkable improvement. Symptoms such as mobility dysfunctions were reduced significantly, and researchers noted the preservation of dopamine-producing neurons and higher dopamine levels in the brain. Preliminary tests indicate that the peptide is a viable treatment option. Though many peptides have a short life span and degrade quickly, this peptide does not. Additionally, it provides a safe treatment option because peptides are organic to the body itself.
According to Dr. Lev, this peptide could fill a gap in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. “Current treatments are lacking because they can only address symptoms — there is nothing that can change or halt the disease,” she says. “Until now, we have lacked tools for neuroprotection.”
The researchers also note the potential for the peptides to be used preventatively. In some cases, Parkinson’s can be diagnosed before motor symptoms begin with the help of brain scans, explains Dr. Lev, and patients who have a genetic link to the disease might opt for early testing. A preventative therapy could help many potential Parkinson’s patients live a normal life.
For those who, unfortunately, do contract the disease there is hope to regain functional mobility through the use of the TUTOR system., The newly developed  system consisting of the HANDTUTOR, ARMTUTOR, LEGTUTOR and 3DTUTOR have become a key system in neuromuscular rehabilitation for, Parkinson’s patients, stroke victims and those recovering from brain and spinal injuries, MS, CP and other limb movement limitations.
These innovative devices implement an impairment based program with augmented motion feedback that encourages motor learning through intensive active exercises and movement practice. The HANDTUTOR, ARMTUTOR, LEGTUTOR and 3DTUTOR  consist of wearable glove and braces that detect limb movement showing the patient how much active or assisted active movement they are actually doing. The accompanying software uses special rehabilitation games to set a new target for this movement in terms of the patient’s ability to move their affected limb. These physical therapy products then measure the limb movement and give feedback on the success to the patient.   In this  way the TUTOR system provides exercises that are challenging and motivating and allow for repetitive and intensive exercise practice.
The TUTOR system is now part of the rehabilitation program of leading U.S. German, Italian, French, UK and other foreign hospitals. See WWW.MEDITOUCH.CO.IL for more information.

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