Every textbook written about the condition will tell you that the classical pathological characteristic of Parkinson’s is the loss of dopamine neurons in the midbrain region of the brain. It is the distinguishing feature that pathologists look for in order to provide a postmortem diagnosis of the condition.
But what is meant by the words ‘loss of dopamine neurons’? Do the cells actually die? Recently researchers from Korea have published new data exploring this question.
Interestingly, they found evidence of ‘dormant’ dopamine neurons in postmortem sections of brains from people with Parkinson’s – even those with severe forms of the condition.
In today’s post, we will discuss what a dopamine neuron is, what this new research found, and what it could mean for our understanding of Parkinson’s.
2019 represented the centenary year for an important discovery in Parkinson’s research.
In 1919, the Uzbek neuropathologist Konstantin Tretiakoff (1892-1958) reported his findings regarding an examination of 54 human brains.
Konstantin Tretiakoff. Source: Wikipedia
Six of the postmortem brains had belonged to individuals who had suffered from Parkinson’s and three others had been diagnosed with postencephalitic Parkinsonism. In these brains he noticed something rather striking.
What did he find?
Bumetanide (Bumex) is a diuretic drug (a medication that removes water, by increasing the production of urine). It is used to treat swelling caused by heart failure or liver or kidney disease.
Recently, researchers in France have been exploring its use in Parkinson’s, and their results are really interesting.
‘Interesting’ because they not only point towards a clinically available drug that could (potentially) be repurposed for the treatments of Parkinson’s, but they also help to explain how our brains control movement.
In today’s post we will review the new results, discuss what they suggest about our ability to move, and we will look at efforts to take this drug to the clinic for Parkinson’s.
Heart failure (sometimes referred to as congestive heart failure) occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficiently enough to maintain the required blood flow to meet the body’s needs. The most common causes of heart failure include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation,valvular heart disease, and lifestyle issues (such as excess alcohol use). Overall around 2% of adults have heart failure; in those over the age of 65, this percentage increases to 6–10%. In 2015, it was estimated to affected approximately 40 million people worldwide (Source).
Common symptoms include:
- shortness of breath
- excessive tiredness
- leg swelling.
A common treatment option for heart failure are diuretics.
What are diuretics?
Diuretics (sometimes called water pills) are medications that have been designed to increase the amount of water and salt expelled from the body as urine.
There are three types of diuretic medications. They are:
Thiazide diuretics are the most commonly prescribed, generally for the treatment of high blood pressure. This class of drugs not only decreases the level of fluids in your body, they also cause your blood vessels to relax. Potassium-sparing diuretics reduce fluid levels in your body without – as the label suggests – causing you to lose potassium. The other types of diuretics can cause you to lose potassium, which can result in other health complications such as arrhythmia.
And then there are loop diuretics, which also decrease the level of fluid in the body.
But some loop diuretics have additional properties. And today we are going to have a look at one of them in the context of Parkinson’s.
It is called Bumetanide.
Why is Bumetanide interesting for Parkinson’s?