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Parkinson's breakthrough hope

17th August 2009

New research by the University of Sheffield has shown that immunosuppresant medication could shield cells from being attacked by Parkinson's disease.

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Rapamycin medication is usually given to transplant patients to ensure a new organ is not rejected by their bodies.

Parkinson's disease causes certain nerve cells in the brain, which make the body capable of regulating movement, to die.

The study involved fruit flies and skin cells taken from Parkinson's patients. It found a way of stimulating nerve cells in order to stop them from being destroyed by the disease.

The drug proved to protect the cells from being damaged by genes which bring about inherited types of the disease.

However Rapamycin is unlikely to be used to treat the disease as it could cause patients to develop "extremely" weak immune systems.

Dr Alex Whitworth, from the University of Sheffield, said: "Another exciting outcome of our study is that the positive effects were seen in both flies and human cells."

"This shows that even simple animal models do work in some cases, and that human cells grown in the lab, may be a good method of screening for new anti-Parkinson’s drugs in the future."

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