Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by a gradual degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. Levodopa ) L-dopa) is converted to dopamine in the brain, and currently serves as the gold standard for treating PD. However, many L-dopa side effects caused by unsteady levels of dopamine biosynthesized in the brain and dopaminergic cell death, are associated with using frequent and large doses of the drug.
To overcome some of the difficulties attributed to the use of L-dopa as a drug for PD, Prof. Atlas prepared a novel derivative of L-dopa which can maintain the positive benefits of this treatment and overcome the negative side-effects.
- The group developed a small molecule, approximately the size of a tripeptide, which serves as a precursor of L-dopa.
- The novel L-dopa derivative comprises selective motifs that:
- lead to a slow release of L-dopa, securing prolonged and steady levels of dopamine in the brain
- induce anti-apoptotic effect that prevents dopaminergic cell-death
To date, there is no clinically disease-modifying treatment that can halt PD progression. The failure to develop neuroprotective or disease-modifying strategies results mainly because treatment starts with the appearance of motor symptoms, long after a significant cell loss. Nevertheless, the standard treatment of L-dopa, which is almost entirely focused on dopamine replenishment, performs efficiently during the initial four to five years of treatment, implying viability of the remaining dopaminergic neurons. Therefore, replacing L-dopa treatment with the new L-dopa derivatives may possibly attenuate the loss of the remaining cells and slow PD progression.