Parkinson’s Disease :: Nicotine may improve quality of life for Parkinson’s disease patients

The Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center announced research showing that intermittent nicotine treatment reduces medication-induced dyskinesias by as much as 50 percent in models of Parkinson’s disease. Lead by senior research scientist, Maryka Quik, Ph.D., the research will be published in an upcoming issue of the Annals of Neurology.

Levodopa, the most common drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease, is initially very effective. However, long-term treatment often lessens efficacy and causes multiple complications, including abnormal involuntary movements, called dyskinesias. These uncontrolled movements of the head and limbs tend to worsen over time and can become as debilitating as Parkinson’s disease itself. Currently, there are only limited therapeutic options for dyskinesias, including reduction in levodopa dose, amantadine administration, and deep brain stimulation for a limited number of patients.

Most of the research on tobacco has focused on its detrimental health effects. Studies conducted over the last 40 years show that the incidence of Parkinson’s disease is about 50 percent less in smokers than in the general population. Recent studies in experimental models suggest that the nicotine in smoke may be responsible for this neuroprotective effect. In addition, this is the first research to show that nicotine may also reduce levodopa-induced dyskinesias. With an estimated 1.5 million Parkinson’s disease patients in the United States, and levodopa being the top prescribed medication for Parkinson’s disease, this study has far-reaching implications for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

“Our hope is that this research represents a useful treatment strategy to reduce the dyskinesias that so many Parkinson’s disease patients suffer, “said Dr. Maryka Quik of the Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center in Sunnyvale. “Reducing the side effects of levodopa makes it a much more effective and long-term treatment.”

The Annals of Neurology is an internationally known clinical neuroscience publication. According to the Institute of Scientific Information, it ranks second among 135 clinical neurology journals.

Dr. Quik received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. After a Medical Research Council postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge University in England, she joined the faculty in the Department of Pharmacology at McGill University as assistant professor. She continued her career in research and teaching as a full professor in Pharmacology at McGill until 1996, when she joined The Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center as a senior research scientist. Dr. Quik has published over 95 research articles and reviews.

Founded in 1988, The Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center is the only independent non-profit organization that combines clinical research, basic research, translational research, clinical trials and a comprehensive movement disorders center in one integrated location. The Parkinson’s Institute is committed to finding the cause(s) and cure for Parkinson’s disease while providing the best possible care to those diagnosed with Parkinson’s and related disorders.

— Article compiled by Dr. Anil Singhal, MD(Hom.) from medical news release.

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