Multiple Sclerosis Drug Could Be Effective Target for Parkinson's Disease Treatment

Dimethylfumarate, a multiple sclerosis drug metabolite, could be a safe and effective therapy for Parkinson’s disease and slow its onset.

Dimethylfumarate (DMF), a multiple sclerosis (MS) drug metabolite, could be a safe and effective therapy for Parkinson’s disease and slow its onset, according to findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University studied the effects of the active portion of the DMF drug on its ability to reduce side effects of the parent drug including flushing, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and brain infection encephalopathy.

Study author and neuroscientist Bobby Thomas explained that DMF and its metabolite, monomethylfumarate (MMF), increases the activity of a protein that helps the body protect itself from oxidative stress and inflammation called Nrf2. Both MS and Parkinson’s disease’s trademark symptoms begin with this oxidative stress and inflammation, he added.

DMF was U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for MS treatment three years ago, and even though MMF is not as effective in increasing Nrf2 activity, this study indicates that it can significantly slow the loss of dopamine producing neurons in an animal model of Parkinson’s. The mice were administered the neurotoxin MPTP and they lost their dopamine producing neurons almost immediately, as a Parkinson’s disease patient would.

The statement continued by adding that oxidative stress is a natural byproduct from the body’s consumption of oxygen and is generated from unstable molecules that interrupt the usual cell function. Antioxidants like vitamin E are often effective in these scenarios, but not against neurodegenerative diseases. Thomas believes that directly targeting Nfr2 will be effective in curbing Parkinson’s disease but knows that there is a need to develop clinically safe Nrf2 activators — something that slowly declines with age.

However, the researchers noted that one of the concerns for developing such drugs would be similar to the common criticisms of immunosuppressive drugs administered to transplant patients: making them more susceptible to cancers and infections. Parkinson’s disease patients are encouraged to be as active as possible, as exercise can aid the regulation and upregulation of Nrf2, the statement added.