Curasen: Shifting the focus from just dopamine

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In September, a small biotech company called CuraSen announced that they had dosed the first participant in a clinical trial of their new experimental drug for Parkinson’s.

This news did not garner a lot of attention, but was of great interest to us here at the SoPD because the drug – currently named CST-2032 – is the first of a novel class of drug to be tested in Parkinson’s.

It also represents a shift in our approach to disease modification in neurodegenerative conditions (like Parkinson’s) as the focus moves away from solely being on the dopamine neurons.

In today’s post, we will look at what CST-2032 is, what evidence exists that supports this drug going into clinical trial, and why it might represent a turning point in how we approach the treatment of Parkinson’s.

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The first thing you notice when you go to the CuraSen website are the words “Think, again“.

A curious introduction to a biotech, but it grabs the attention.

Next – and I don’t want to ruin things for anyone (Spoiler alert!) – the words fade away…

… only to be replaced by: “Rethinking neurodegeneration”

At that point (if you are a curious creature) you start thinking: Ooh, this looks interesting.

And with a little bit of digging, you realise that it is interesting.

Very interesting.

Why is Curasen interesting?

Curasen is a California-based biotech taking a slightly different approach towards neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s.

What are they doing?

Continue reading “Curasen: Shifting the focus from just dopamine”

The anti-depressing research of antidepressants

Antidepressants are an important class of drugs in modern medicine, providing people with relief from the crippling effects of depression.

Recently, research has suggested that some of these drugs may also provide benefits to people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. But by saying this we are not talking about the depression that can sometimes be associated with this condition.

This new research suggests anti-depressants are actual providing neuroprotective benefits.

In today’s post we will discuss depression and its treatment, outline the recent research, and look at whether antidepressants could be useful for people with Parkinson’s disease.


Source: NatureWorldNews

It is estimated that 30 to 40% of people with Parkinson’s disease will suffer from some form of depression during the course of the condition, with 17% demonstrating major depression and 22% having minor depression (Click here to read more on this).

This is a very important issue for the Parkinson’s community.

Depression in Parkinson’s disease is associated with a variety of poor outcomes not only for the individuals, but also for their families/carers. These outcomes can include greater disability, less ability to care for oneself, faster disease progression, reduced cognitive performance, reduced adherence to treatment, worsening quality of life, and increased mortality. All of which causes higher levels of caregiver distress for those supporting the affected individual (Click here to read more about the impact of depression in early Parkinson’s).

What is depression?

Wikipedia defines depression as a “state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behaviour, feelings, and sense of well-being” (Source). It is a common mental state that causes people to experience loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.

Importantly, depression can vary significantly in severity, from simply causing a sense of melancholy to confining people to their beds.

Source: Prevention

What causes depression?

Continue reading “The anti-depressing research of antidepressants”

The Agony and the Ecstasy

ecstasy

The contents of today’s post may not be appropriate for all readers. An illegal and potentially damaging drug is discussed. Please proceed with caution. 

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (or MDMA) is more commonly known as Ecstasy, ‘Molly’ or simply ‘E’. It is a controlled Class A, synthetic, psychoactive drug that was very popular with the New York and London club scene of the 1980-90s.

It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing a feeling of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, but also distorted sensory perception. 

Another curious effect of the drug: it has the ability to reduce dyskinesias – the involuntary movements associated with long-term Levodopa treatment.

In today’s post, we will (try not to get ourselves into trouble by) discussing the biology of MDMA, the research that has been done on it with regards to Parkinson’s disease, and what that may tell us about dyskinesias.


Carwash-image-07

Good times. Source: Carwash

You may have heard this story before.

It is about a stuntman.

His name is Tim Lawrence, and in 1994 – at 34 years of age – he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

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Tim Lawrence. Source: BBC

Following the diagnosis, Tim was placed on the standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease: Levodopa. But after just a few years of taking this treatment, he began to develop dyskinesias.

Dyskinesias are involuntary movements that can develop after regular long-term use of Levodopa. There are currently few clinically approved medications for treating this debilitating side effect of Levodopa treatment. I have previously discussed dyskinesias (Click here and here for more of an explanation about them).

As his dyskinesias progressively got worse, Tim was offered and turned down deep brain stimulation as a treatment option. But by 1997, Tim says that he spent most of his waking hours with “twitching, spasmodic, involuntary, sometimes violent movements of the body’s muscles, over which the brain has absolutely no control“.

And the dyskinesias continued to get worse…

…until one night while he was out at a night club, something amazing happened:

Standing in the club with thumping music claiming the air, I was suddenly aware that I was totally still. I felt and looked completely normal. No big deal for you, perhaps, but, for me, it was a revelation” he said.

His dyskinesias had stopped.

Continue reading “The Agony and the Ecstasy”