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Recent Research Shows Promise for New Parkinson’s-Symptoms Drugs

OHSU scientists have made a significant discovery

New opportunities for drugs that would treat Parkinson’s symptoms could be on the way.

Late last year, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) made an interesting discovery: that the neurotransmitter adenosine essentially puts the brakes on dopamine, another neurotransmitter that falls to low levels in Parkinson’s patients.

OHSU researchers Tianyi Mao and Haining Zhong contend the findings could help scientists to create new treatments. The loss of dopamine-producing cells is widely considered a cause of Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder that affects more than 10 million people worldwide.

“There are two neuronal circuits: one that helps promote action and the other that inhibits action,” said senior author Zhong, Ph.D. and scientist with the OHSU Vollum Institute. “Dopamine promotes the first circuit to enable movement, and adenosine is the ‘brake’ that promotes the second circuit and brings balance to the system.”

As Erik Robinson, senior media relations specialist at OHSU wrote in a November 2022 blog, “Scientists have long suspected that dopamine is influenced by an opposing dynamic of neuronal signaling in the striatum — a critical region of the brain that mediates movement along with reward, motivation and learning. The striatum is also the primary brain region affected in Parkinson’s disease by the loss of dopamine-producing cells.”

Co-author Mao agreed.

“People for a long time suspected there has to be this push-pull system,” said Mao, also a Ph.D. and scientist at the Vollum Institute.

The recently published study contains research that shows how adenosine acts in opposition with dopamine. The study involved mice and genetically engineered protein probes developed in Zhong and Mao’s labs.

All of Neurology Associates' neurologists, and several other practitioners, have training in movement disorders; Dr. Marianne de Lima, Dr. Ming Jai-Liu, and Nurse Practitioner Amanda Canizales are specialists in the field.

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