Anti-malarial drugs may be a potential treatment option for Parkinson’s disease, according to researchers from Nanyang Technological University, McLean Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. Findings from the study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists found that by activating a class of proteins called Nurr1 in the brain, it could protect the brain’s ability to generate dopamine neurons. In the lab, rats with Parkinson’s disease showed improved behavior without signs of suffering from the disease. After screening about 1,000 Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs, researchers discovered two existing anti-malarial drugs that were effective: chloroquine and amodiaquine.

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The current standard for Parkinson’s disease treatment is to replenish the patients’ dopamine levels through drugs or by surgical deep brain stimulation. Since these methods only address the symptoms and not disease progression, scientists hope to better modify chloroquine and amodiaquine and conduct clinical trials. The team is also looking to find more drugs that can stop and reverse the onset of Parkinson’s disease.

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