Sydney: Rave culture`s illicit drug `ecstasy` can help develop drugs that curb involuntary movements in Parkinson`s disease, says a study.
A team led by a medicinal chemist at The University of Western Australia (UWA) studied the possibility. Matthew Piggott, associate professor, said Parkinson`s patients have a great deal of difficulty moving without medication.
The drug, levodopa, restores their movement but, over time, side-effects often develop. These include a reduction in therapeutic duration and jerky, involuntary movements known as dyskinesia.
"Dyskinesia is often confused as a symptom of Parkinson`s disease, when in fact it is a side-effect of the treatment," Piggott was quoted as saying in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
"For some time now we`ve known that the drug most commonly sold as `ecstasy`, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), ameliorates the side-effects of levodopa therapy. But MDMA has no therapeutic potential because it makes users `high`," said Piggot, according to a university statement.
"Although controversial, there is also evidence that MDMA may be neurotoxic, or at least responsible for long-term, deleterious changes in brain chemistry," Piggot said.
The team of UWA scientists, collaborating with Parkinson`s disease experts in Toronto, has now demonstrated that it is possible to de-link the beneficial effects of MDMA from its undesirable attributes. The feat was achieved through the creation of MDMA analogues - new compounds with a similar chemical structure to MDMA.
"The best compound, which we call UWA-101, is even more effective than MDMA at enhancing the quality of levodopa therapy," said Piggot.
If translated to a medicine, this would mean that Parkinson`s patients could take their medication less frequently and get a better quality result from it," Piggot added.