Oxford team discover key to possible treatment for Parkinson’s

Professor Richard Wade-MartinsResearch led by the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre, which is headed by Christ Church’s Professor Richard Wade-Martins, and involving collaborators at the University of Bordeaux, the Universidad del País Vasco and the University of California has shown that tiny compounds known as molecular “tweezers” could become a promising therapy to slow Parkinson’s. This new kind of drug works by pulling apart toxic clumps of protein that form in the brain during Parkinson’s.

The therapy has previously shown high potential for targeting toxic protein clumps that form in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s. The researchers investigated whether a particular molecular tweezer, CLR01, was able to reduce the formation of protein clumps in cell and mouse models of Parkinson’s.

Researchers tested CLR01 in a mouse model of Parkinson’s that stimulates the formation of protein clusters and mimics the motor symptoms experienced by people with the condition, which can include tremors and slowness of movement. As the mice aged, CLR01 treatment reduced the appearance of motor problems and the formation of toxic protein clusters in the brain. Importantly, the team showed that in much older animals with more progressed Parkinson’s, CLR01 treatment was less effective.

This work suggests that using protective therapies early on in Parkinson’s is essential for an effective treatment. These combined results highlight that CLR01 represents a candidate to treat Parkinson’s, and emphasises the need for further research in this area.

tiny-brain-tweezers-could-hold-the-key-to-treat-parkinsonsLead Researcher Dr Nora Bengoa-Vergniory said: “Future investment to determine the appropriate therapeutic window for these kinds of therapeutic agents is crucial for the success of these and other therapeutic strategies.” 

Professor Wade-Martins, senior author on the study, said: “Our work is focused on developing new approaches to saving neurons when they start to lose function early on, but before they die later on in the condition. This is a very exciting piece of work showing that drug treatments can be developed to unpick toxic protein clusters to save neurons in models of Parkinson’s. This work should give encouragement to those ultimately hoping for protective therapies.”

Professor Wade-Martins heads the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre, a multi-disciplinary research initiative supported by the Medical Research Council and the Monument Discovery Award from Parkinson’s UK. The latter was originally funded for 2010-2015 and is now re-funded through 2020. 

To read more about this promising research, which was published in Nature Communications, see: https://www.dpag.ox.ac.uk/news/tiny-brain-tweezers-could-hold-the-key-to-treat-parkinsons