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Epilepsy drug may offer a cheap and easy way to treat PD

A team of researchers led by Dr. Serge Przedborski at Columbia University has demonstrated that infusion of D-b-hydroxybutyrate (DßHB), a treatment used for epilepsy, appears to restore impaired brain function and protect against neurological degeneration in mice suffering from experimental Parkinson's. The study was funded in part by the Parkinson's Disease Foundation.

As reported in the September 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Dr. Przedborski and colleagues first administered the neurotoxin MPTP to mice, causing them to develop a form of Parkinson's disease. Next, they infused the medication DßHB. They found that DßHB restored the function of mitochondria, the energy source within the brain cell, and protected against the development of Parkinson's. In fact, the levels of dopamine seen in mice treated with the medication remained constant whereas those treated with a placebo experienced a drop in these levels during the seven-day study. The study suggests a possible role for a mitochondrial defect in Parkinson's disease, which can be helped by DßHB.

DßHB is already successfully used in the treatment of epilepsy. It has the major advantage of being able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier that often prevents potentially beneficial drugs from entering the brain. Dr. Przedborski, commenting on the study, said: "DßHB may be a straightforward neuroprotective strategy for the treatment of neruodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's".