Experimental Parkinson’s Therapy May Have Robust Weight-Loss Effect

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Experimental Parkinson’s Therapy May Have Robust Weight-Loss Effect

In clinical experiments focused on rescuing dying brain cells in Parkinson’s patients using a growth factor called GDNF, scientists found unwanted weight loss.

When the GDNF was delivered to specific fluid-filled areas of the brain, researchers discovered that a common side effect was weight loss greater than what could be attributed to surgery, diet, or exercise.

Although there is much more research to do in finding a treatment that not only alleviates movement problems that affect Parkinson’s patients, including tremors and stiffness, but more importantly slows the disease’s progression, this find has broadened the understanding of how gene therapy could eventually help control obesity by regulating metabolism and body weight.

It has also given researchers studying potential obesity therapies much more to consider when creating treatments that influence food intake and how the brain regulates energy use.

Based on the results from the Parkinson’s study, the University of Florida researchers began looking for areas in the brain that may be responsible for weight loss.

Using rats, they noticed that when GDNF was delivered to known areas of the brain that control weight and general metabolism, younger rats had reduced weight gain, while older rats experienced significant weight loss.

Using obese rats, the UF researchers also flooded bundles of nerves, known as the nigro-stri-atal tract, the area known as a potential target for Parkinson’s therapy, which resulted in significant weight loss.

However, when the GDNF protein was over-expressed in the hypothalamus, which regulates the feeding and hunger center of the brain, the result was only half as much weight loss.

Ron Mandel, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Florida, says that the results show for the first time that GDNF over-expression in a specific anatomical area in the brain is involved in metabolism.

He goes on to state that “for people who study metabolism in the brain, this sheds some new light on the playing field… and that the playing field is more complicated than anyone dreamed.”

All in all, that’s promising news in the fight against obesity.