Ending Parkinson’s: Could a ‘Growth Factor’ Hold the Key?

Josep M Rovirosa

(DGIwire) — A recent human trial testing the clinical effectiveness of a growth-factor compound in those with Parkinson’s disease showed promising results. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, raised the possibility that there could, in the future, be regenerative treatments for those suffering from Parkinson’s. Better still, the treatments would use the brain’s native protective abilities to stop brain cells from decreasing and raise reduced dopamine levels to normal.

The study was based on research observing the cumulative effects of 10 years of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) studies in animals. Those studies showed that PDGF improves motor skills, restores dopamine and might even repair neurons and nerve fibers. In other words, it’s a treatment that goes beyond palliative and into positive.

The study, conducted by researchers at Lund University and Karolinska Institute in Sweden, was double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled to test the safety and side effects of PDGF in 12 Parkinson’s sufferers. Researchers found PDGF to cause no serious or unresolvable side effects, and encouraged researchers when they performed PET scans in a follow-up four months after treatment. What the researchers saw is that the patients who received the highest dose did not have the same decrease in these signals as the placebo-treated patients. Instead, they actually saw an increase in signaling.

The results indicate that PDGF may have the potential to not only slow Parkinson’s but also, in some small part, to reverse its effects. The next steps are to increase the sample size of patients surveyed and ensure the results were not due to luck or a fluke. Although the commercialization of this result is a long way off, this breakthrough should not be ignored.