Diabetes-type drug may slow Parkinson's

The drug molecule, NLY01, which works in the same way as some diabetes drugs, has been found to slow the progression of Parkinson's in a mouse model of the condition.

Researchers at John Hopkins University in America have published promising results from early-stage research into the drug molecule NLY01. Read the full study on the Nature Medicine website.

In a mouse model of Parkinson's, NLY01 was seen to reduce the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Additionally, mice treated with NLY01 developed fewer symptoms.

Diabetes drugs in Parkinson's

NLY01, works in a similar way to diabetes drugs like exenatide by targeting glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptors.

While activating the GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas causes insulin to be released, researchers believe activating the same receptors in the brain may help to protect the brain cells affected by Parkinson's.

We still don't fully understand how drugs that target GLP-1 receptors may have protective effects in Parkinson's, but there is ongoing research into developing and testing drugs that work in this way.

In this recent study, the researchers suggest that NLY01 may slow the progression of Parkinson's by preventing the activation of a type of brain cell called astrocytes. Normally these cells help support other brain cells, but when they become activated, which happens in response to infection or damage, they can cause damage.

Dr Beckie Port, Research Communications Manager at Parkinson's UK, comments:

"This is promising news, particularly as existing research supports the potential of diabetes drugs that work in the same way as NLY01.
"Up to now, most research has focused on existing diabetes drugs, like exenatide, to treat Parkinson's, but NLY01 may have some advantages over these: it may be able to penetrate the brain and reach the brain cells affected by Parkinson's more easily, which could make it more effective.

"We eagerly anticipate the next stage for this drug, clinical trials, to show whether it is truly able to slow the progression of Parkinson's - something no current treatment can do."

Discover more

Parkinson's research continues to make progress. There is always a steady flow of updates, from new projects being announced to exciting results.