Caffeine-Based Substance May Prevent Parkinson's Disease

First Posted: Oct 03, 2016 02:46 AM EDT

Parkinson's disease is known to attack the nervous system that causes uncontrolled shaking, muscle stiffness, and slow, imprecise movement, mainly in middle-aged and elderly people. Now researchers in Canada were able to develop two caffeine-based chemical compounds that may prevent the destruction Parkinson's disease brings. reported that Parkinson's disease is caused by the loss of neurons (brain cells) responsible for producing dopamine, which is a vital neurotransmitter that enables neurons to communicate with each other.

The research team from the University of Saskatchewan concentrated on a protein called Alpha-synuclein (AS). This protein is apparently involved in dopamine regulation. For people who suffer from Parkinson's disease, AS gets misfolded into a tight structure which is usually connected to the demise of dopamine-producing neurons. "Many of the current therapeutic compounds focus on boosting the dopamine output of surviving cells, but this is effective only as long as there are still enough cells to do the job," said one of the lead researchers Jeremy Lee from University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine. "Our approach aims to protect dopamine-producing cells by preventing AS from misfolding in the first place," Lee noted.         

According to Medical Xpress, Ed Krol from the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition led the team with Lee, who is a biochemist from the same University. Other significant people in the study included researchers Troy Harkness and Joe Kakish from the College of Medicine, as well as Kevin Allen from the Drug Discovery and Research Group in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition.

Lee explained that they had a challenging time dealing with chemistry. NDTV reported that the team combined 30 kinds of "bifunctional dimer" drugs, which are molecules that two different elements known to have a significant influence on cells that produce dopamine. He added saying that the team started with a caffeine known as "scaffold," which according to literature shows that the stimulant has a protective effect against Parkinson's.

Meanwhile, using this as a basis, the researchers added other compounds with known effects including nicotine, the diabetes drug metformin, and aminoindan, a research chemical similar to the Parkinson's drug rasagiline. Then, using a yeast model of Parkinson's disease, the team found that two of the compounds prevented AS protein from clumping, thereby allowing the cells to normally grow in its environment.

"Our results suggest these novel bifunctional dimers show promise in preventing the progression of Parkinson's disease," Lee said. The findings of the study were published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

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