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Parkinson’s Research Uses Laser Targeting Technology to Find a Treatment

Posted on Feb 22, 2012

San Francisco’s Gladstone Institute is exploring the use of laser technology to find more successful ways to treat Parkinson’s disease. And the results are promising for the future of this disabling condition.

Researcher Dr. Anatol Kreitzer has studied the neural pathways that are associated with Parkinson’s for years. He began by using lasers to map the pathways. He explained, “The first step was to identify which circuits are actually affected in Parkinson’s disease, and that’s what we did.”

The success of this “first step” led the researcher to search for a way to interrupt the circuits that were malfunctioning and causing Parkinson’s symptoms. Kreitzer and his team were able to locate a protein called RGS4, which is responsible for the brain signals that regulate movement. He reported that, “RGS4 becomes overactive in Parkinson’s disease and it actually causes these circuits to become overactive as well.”

To test the relationship between dopamine, which drops in Parkinson’s patients, and RGS4, the scientists studied the effects in mice. What they discovered is that in mice the RSG4 acts as a “messenger” that, with dopamine removal, causes erratic movement. 

It is hoped that this discovery will lead to a more effective drug treatment for the disease. Kreitzer believes that they will find a “symptomatic treatment that has the potential to normalize motor behavior”. 

The research continues into ways to target RGS4. While it could take a number of years to test compounds capable of doing this, human trials could begin within the next ten years.

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John L. Keefe
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