A new research carried out recently reveals that amphetamines — the drug known to commoners as ecstasy — may prompt new Parkinson's treatments. It relieved Parkinson’ symptoms in mice.
The team then dosed the mice with chemicals, looking for drugs that might alleviate their symptoms. What worked best, they found, was methylenedioxymehtamphetamine (MDMA), an amphetamine better known as ecstasy, Nature informs.
But MDMA did not raise dopamine levels, hinting that it restores movement through an unknown mechanism outside of the dopamine system.
The scientists did not look at the drug's effects in people, and do not advocate self-medication. "We don't want to give the idea that every Parkinson's patient should be standing on the street corner trying to buy amphetamines," team leader Marc Caron, a cell biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, was quoted as saying by Nature.
Nevertheless, the team is hopeful that their findings may point to new treatments for Parkinson's, a debilitating disorder in which patients lose the ability to control their actions.
Caron's team looked at genetically altered mice that lack the brain chemical dopamine. As in humans with low dopamine levels, these mice exhibit Parkinson's-like symptoms, such as tremors and stiff limbs.
In Parkinson's disease, certain brain cells falter and die. Those cells cannot do their job, which is to make a chemical called dopamine.
The brain uses dopamine to guide movement. The dopamine deficit scrambles the brain's movement signals to the rest of the body. Though Parkinson's has no cure, medicine can help manage symptoms. Many Parkinson's drugs — including levodopa — address the brain's dopamine shortfall. However, complications from long-term levodopa use can also hinder motion.
According to Fox News, amphetamines did not work like levodopa and the other dopamine drugs. Instead of traveling through the brain's dopamine system, amphetamines took another route, but the path is not clear yet.
The findings reveal new clues about the brain disease and might one day lead to new treatments, write the researchers. They included Duke University cell biologist Tatyana Sotnikova, PhD, MSci. The report appears in Public Library of Science Biology.