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Diabetes drug takes us one step closer to the holy grail of Parkinson's treatment

Monday May 20, 2013

Dr. Claire Bale

ITV News - Thanks to the likes of Michael J Fox, Muhammad Ali and more recently, Bob Hoskins, many more people have now heard of Parkinson's.

Yet despite this Parkinson's remains a condition that few understand.

Aside from a tremor, which most people associate with Parkinson's, it is a hugely debilitating condition that can eventually affect all aspects of daily life – with seemingly simple tasks like getting out of bed becoming increasingly difficult.

Anxiety, pain, problems with movement, sleep and speech are all part of daily life for the 127,000 people living with Parkinson's in the UK.

Although the impact of Parkinson's is all too clear, what causes this progressive condition to develop is much less so.

New research published today however, takes us one step closer to the holy grail of Parkinson's research – being able to slow down, or even stop, the condition in its tracks.

Exenatide is a drug commonly used to treat diabetes but this small trial has shown real promise that it could help to slow the course of Parkinson's in some people, and potentially help maintaining a good quality of life for longer.

The benefits of exenatide first came to light several years ago, when an initial study funded by Parkinson's UK, showed that the drug was able to rescue dying nerve cells.

This new research shows the potential the drug has when it is taken from the laboratory and delivered into the lives of people with Parkinson's.

People with diabetes are at a slightly increased risk of developing Parkinson's and although it isn't yet clear why; some diabetes drugs may also have potential for treating Parkinson's – such is the case with exenatide.

Despite these encouraging results, it is simply too soon to tell whether this drug is a blind alley or a breakthrough for people with Parkinson's.

The research was conducted in a very small number of people and, crucially, without a placebo group – making it difficult to draw too many firm conclusions at this early stage.

What needs to happen next is a much larger trial to fully examine the usefulness of exenatide for people with Parkinson's – we look forward to these results with anticipation.