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Northwestern Researchers Develop Milestone Parkinson's Treatment

Wednesday February 13, 2013

Ally Mutnick, Assistant Campus Editor

The Daily Northwestern - Northwestern researchers are continuing tests on their breakthrough development in the fight against Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder that affects movement and coordination.

Toward the end of last year, chemistry Prof. Richard Silverman, and Dalton James Surmeier, chair of physiology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, created with their team a new family of compounds that could slow the progression of the disease.

So far, the compound has only been tested on animals, but experiments have produced successful results. However, researchers are now doing additional animal testing and working on turning the compound into a pill form, according to a Feb. 6 Chicago Tribune article.

The researchers believe their work can slow the disease without any serious side effects. Current treatment for Parkinson’s only targets the symptoms.

The new compound targets a rare faulty membrane protein that allows calcium to flood the dopamine neurons in the brain. These neurons control movement, and calcium interaction from Parkinson’s causes the cells to die, possibly leading to aging and premature death.

The researchers’ compound will selectively target the faulty protein and block calcium entry to stop cells from dying.

Surmeier and Silverman published their findings in the scientific journal Nature Communications on Oct. 23.