Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Researchers have developed a new drug that could correct damage to the brain caused by Parkinson's disease and lead to improvement of symptoms, researchers report.
Patients who had implants to replace damaged brain cells showed 100 percent improvement in reawakening portions of their brains harmed by Parkinson's, according to research published Tuesday in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease.
"The spatial and relative magnitude of the improvement in the brain scans is beyond anything seen previously in trials of surgically delivered growth-factor treatments for Parkinson's," Alan L. Whone, a researcher at University of Bristol and study author, said in a news release. "This represents some of the most compelling evidence yet that we may have a means to possibly reawaken and restore the dopamine brain cells that are gradually destroyed in Parkinson's."
The researchers used robot-assisted neurosurgery to implant a special delivery system to release Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor into the brain cells of Parkinson's patients.
This procedure was performed on six patients in a pilot study to determine safety of the treatment, then 35 more were enrolled in a follow-up study where some received GDNF implants and the others were given placebos. After an initial nine-month trial, the researchers extended the trial, delivering the treatment every four weeks for 18 months.
Having already seen differences in parts of the brain affected by the disease, the researchers report that, after 18 months of treatment, all participants showed "moderate to large improvements in symptoms compared to before they started the study," the researchers said.
"I believe that this approach could be the first neuro-restorative treatment for people living with Parkinson's, which is, of course, an extremely exciting prospect," Steven Gill, a researcher in the Neurological and Musculoskeletal Sciences Division at North Bristol NHS Trust.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that about 50,000 people receive a Parkinson's disease diagnosis each year.
"It's essential to continue research exploring this treatment further -- GDNF continues to hold potential to improve the lives of people with Parkinson's," Whone said.