Asthma Medicine May Hold the Key for Parkinson's Disease
Asthma is a lifelong disease that causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. It affects 1 in every 12 people in the United States, and doctors say the number of cases is only climbing. The most effective way to combat the condition is with an asthma pump, to be used when a patient feels their asthma worsening. Some of these inhalers include the medicine salbutamol, which widens the air passages in patients with asthma.
In another disorder, Parkinson’s disease, the neurons in the brain die. In America alone, one million people are affected by this incurable disease. It gained more attention when Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with it in 1984, followed soon after by Michael J. Fox, whose career took a sharp turn after the news.
One study noted the likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease was lessened when salbutamol was taken at a higher dose. This disease is very evasive. A protein called a-synuclein builds up in the brain cells, which can kill the cells. Scientists have been working tirelessly to speed up the eradication of this protein by prevent its build-up in the first place.
Scientists grew human nerve cells in the lab trying to see the impact of various types of vitamins, medicines, other molecules and dietary supplements on the output of this dangerous protein. They noted some of the drugs reduced the protein’s harmful abilities, one of which was salbutamol. This particular action was done by stimulating b2-adrenoreceptor. This drug is very common, so scientists decided to see if using salbutamol for asthma resulted in fewer diagnoses of Parkinson’s disease. For this, though, they needed a larger database, which they found in Norway, where the disease is rare. It was noted 0.1% of the study’s participants developed Parkinson’s disease, which they attributed to not using salbutamol. However, the 0.4 percent of people who took the drug did develop the disease. Further, considering the other factors, it was noted that those who had taken salbutamol once in their lifetime had a 33.3% less chance of developing the disease.
The chance of developing Parkinson’s was determined by the amount of salbutamol that was taken. Researchers conducted a study from 2004 until 2007, and at the end, they concluded that those who took the drug in highest dosage had a 50% less chance of developing Parkinson’s disease over the next seven years, whereas those who took the lowest dose saw only slightly lower chances of developing the disease.
The results are fascinating, but a neurologist named Anthony Lang feels skeptical of these findings, even though he is happy about the hope they bring. The study showed the impact of salbutamol on Parkinson’s disease is not confirmed; if the findings were true, not a single patient with Parkinson’s disease would have asthma, but this is not the case. The route taken to obtain the results has made the researchers feel less than positive about the study. Many feel the best way to move forward would be through clinical trials with salbutamol or similar drugs. For patients with chronic and incurable diseases, medical experiments or observations done in clinical settings are especially helpful.
Until now, no drugs have been found that can both relax the airways and enter the brain effectively. Also, 16 recent clinical trials were conducted for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and all have failed. Due to these disappointments, Lang is anxious about putting clinical trials into action. The next logical step would be to develop a medicine that can target the dangerous protein and at the same time effectively enter the brain. Hopefully, scientists will soon be able to find a solution.