From an NIH press release on 04 July 2006:
Dopamine Drug Leads to New Neurons and Recovery of Function in Rat Model of Parkinson's Disease
In preliminary results, researchers have shown that a drug which mimics the effects of the nerve-signaling chemical dopamine causes new neurons to develop in the part of the brain where cells are lost in Parkinson's disease (PD). The drug also led to long-lasting recovery of function in an animal model of PD. The findings may lead to new ways of treating PD and other neurodegenerative diseases. The study was funded in part by the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
The study suggests that drugs which affect dopamine D3 receptors might trigger new neurons to grow in humans with the disease. Some of these drugs are commonly used to treat PD. The finding also suggests a way to develop new treatments for PD. The results appear in the July 5, 2006, issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
The new study, conducted by Christopher Eckman, Ph.D., and Jackalina Van Kampen, Ph.D., at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Florida, focused on a second possible way to restore function — prompting stem cells that normally remain dormant in the adult brain to develop into neurons. While most researchers previously believed the adult brain could not develop new neurons, recent studies have shown that the brain contains stem cells and that new neurons can develop in some regions. Studies by Dr. Van Kampen and others also have shown that drugs which affect dopamine D3 receptors can trigger development of new neurons (a process called neurogenesis) in the brains of adult rats. Until now, however, no one had shown that the newly developed neurons could connect with other parts of the brain and restore function.
"This is the first study to show that endogenous neurogenesis [development of new neurons from cells already in the brain] can lead to recovery of function in an animal model of Parkinson's disease," says Dr. Eckman.
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Anthony H. Risser | neuroscience | neuropsychology | brain