Oral nutritional supplement of a natural molecule has been found to benefit patients in a preliminary clinical trial for Parkinson's disease, researchers from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, US reported.
In the study, researchers found that administration of the natural molecule, n-acetylcysteine (NAC), with strong antioxidant effects, improved the patient's mental and physical abilities. NAC is an oral supplement that can be obtained at most nutrition stores, and interestingly also comes in an intravenous form which is used to protect the liver in acetaminophen overdose.
"This study reveals a potentially new avenue for managing Parkinson's patients," said senior author Daniel Monti. Lack of the neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to cause Parkinson's, a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement. "N-acetylcysteine may have a unique physiological effect that alters the disease process and enables dopamine neurons to recover some function," Monti explained.
The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
In this study, Parkinson's patients who continued their current standard of care treatment, were placed into two groups.
The first group received a combination of oral and intravenous NAC for three months and the second group, the control patients, received only their standard of care for Parkinson's treatment.
Patients were evaluated initially, before starting the NAC and then after three months of receiving the NAC while the control patients were evaluated initially and three months later.
The evaluation consisted of standard clinical measures such as the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), a survey administered by doctors to help determine the stage of disease, and a brain scan via DaTscan SPECT imaging, which measures the amount of dopamine transporter in the basal ganglia, the area most affected by the Parkinson's disease process. Compared to controls, the patients receiving NAC had improvements of four to nine per cent in dopamine transporter binding and also had improvements in their UPDRS score of about 13 percent. "We have not previously seen an intervention for Parkinson's disease have this kind of effect on the brain," first author Andrew Newberg, Professor at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, said.