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Nicotine found to protect against Parkinson's-like brain damage

New research suggests that nicotine treatment protects against the same type of brain damage that occurs in Parkinson's disease. The research was conducted in laboratory animals treated with MPTP, an agent that produces a gradual loss of brain function characteristic of Parkinson's. Experimental animals receiving chronic administration of nicotine over a period of six months had 25 percent less damage from the MPTP treatment than those not receiving nicotine.

This protective effect may explain the lower incidence of Parkinson's disease among smokers. The results also suggest that nicotine may be useful as a potential therapy in the treatment of early-stage Parkinson's patients.

The five-year study was conducted by researchers at The Parkinson's Institute, an independent, non-profit research institute located in Sunnyvale, California. The study results are published in an on-line early release in the Journal of Neurochemistry (doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2006.04078.x)

Parkinson's disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease caused by the death of small clusters of cells in the midbrain. The gradual loss of these cells results in reduction of a critical transmitter called dopamine, the chemical messenger responsible for normal movement.

"While we would never recommend that people smoke, these results suggest that nicotine promotes the survival of dopamine-producing cells in animals with no overt Parkinson's symptoms," said David A. Schwartz, M.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the federal agency that provided funding for the study. "These findings also have implications for its use in slowing the progression of Parkinson's." '"/>

Contact: Kellie A Hayes
khayes@thepi.org
408-542-5663
The Parkinson's Institute
7-Aug-2006


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