Jefferson Researchers Provide Leads To Potential Parkinson's Treatment

A Natural Substance In The Cell Membrane May Either Protect Or Stimulate Brain Cell Activity

A naturally occurring substance in the cell's membrane may improve symptoms in Parkinson's disease patients and perhaps even help slow down the progression of Parkinson's, according to studies by researchers at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

Jay S. Schneider, Ph.D., professor of pathology, cell biology and anatomy and neurology and his co-workers compared a drug, GM1 ganglioside, with a placebo in 45 patients with Parkinson's disease receiving a 16-week course of treatment.

"At the end of the study, test scores in the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale, which is a standard scale to measure motor abilities, showed a significant difference between those who received the drug and those who did not," says Dr. Schneider. He and his colleagues at Jefferson report their findings in the June issue of the journal Neurology.

The study was a double-blind trial, with neither the researchers nor the patients knowing who receives the drug. GM1 ganglioside is a normal part of the cell membrane that plays an important role in cell growth, development, signal transduction and repair after injury.

According to Dr. Schneider, many of the patients' symptoms, such as rigidity and slow movement, improved during participation in the trial. Patients also reported that they were able to function better in performing daily living activities, such as dressing and handling eating utensils. "Overall, every patient receiving GM1 improved to some degree," he says. "They had less stiffness, less bradykinesia or slowness of movement, and better manual dexterity and motor coordination."

While some participants in the placebo group also slightly improved, the condition of the majority of those who did not receive the drug remained unchanged.

Dr. Schneider and his gr

Contact: Steve Benowitz
Thomas Jefferson University

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