Irish scientists work on therapy to halt progress of Parkinson's disease
Irish and Australian scientists combined to develop a new therapy which has the potential to stop the progression of Parkinson's disease.
A small molecule known as MCC950 worked to effectively cool the brain of a disease sufferer in a number of animal models, preventing the loss of brain cells, researchers said.
It is hoped that human clinical trials can begin in 2020 which could lead to a breakthrough in the degenerative disorder affecting more than 10 million people worldwide.
The study was co-authored by the co-founder and chief executive of Irish biotech firm Inflazome, Professor Matt Cooper, with research teams at The University of Queensland, Australia led by Associate Professor Trent Woodruff.
Headquartered in Dublin, Inflazome was co-founded by Professor Luke O'Neill of Trinity College Dublin.
The new research was supported by The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and Shake it Up Australia Foundation.
Associate Prof Woodruff said: "The disease is characterised by the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine, which is a chemical that co-ordinates motor control, and is accompanied by chronic inflammation in the brain.
"We found a key immune system target, called the NLRP3 inflammasome, lights up in Parkinson's patients, with signals found in the brain and even in the blood. MCC950, given orally once a day, blocked NLRP3 activation in the brain and prevented the loss of brain cells, resulting in markedly improved motor function."
Professor Matt Cooper said current therapies focus on managing symptoms rather than stopping the disease.
"We have taken an alternative approach by focusing on immune cells in the brain called microglia that can clear these toxic proteins," he said.
The study is published in 'Science Translational Medicine'.
Separately, research suggested that removing the appendix could reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease.
Its importance to the human body - if any - has long been the subject of speculation, but now scientists believe the tiny organ could be a contributor to the onset of Parkinson's.
A study of more than a million people found removing the appendix could be linked to a 20pc decrease in the degenerative condition.
Researchers with the American Association for the Advancement of Science investigated the appendix, which has been shown to contain high quantities of a protein that aggregates in the brains of patients.
The research was published in the 'Science Translational Medicine' journal.