UNMC to begin new trial for Parkinson’s disease

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July 10th, 2013

Dr. Howard Gendelman, chair of UNMC's department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience, said the study means the ability to change the immune system. (Photo Courtesy UNMC)

Dr. Howard Gendelman, chair of UNMC’s department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience, said the study means the ability to change the immune system. (Photo Courtesy UNMC)

Omaha, NE — Doctors and researchers at the Nebraska Neuroscience Alliance (NNA) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center are hoping a new clinical trial will unlock new treatment options for people living with Parkinson’s disease.

The trial will test the drug Leukin, which is commonly used to boost the immune system in cancer patients, to test a unique immune therapy. The study will determine whether the drug can transform the immune system in patients suffering from Parkinson ’s disease from one that causes harm to the brain to one that protects it, elicits nerve cell repair and ultimately affects disease symptoms, according to Dr. R. Lee Mosley, co-principal investigator and associate professor in the department of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience.

Dr. Howard Gendelman, principal investigator and chair of the department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience at UNMC, said that despite the massive amount of research on Parkinson’s Disease, there is little available that can protect or regenerate brain damage from the disease making this trial all the more important.

“This immune-modulator strategy means the ability to change the immune system in such a way that we can train it, we can harness it so that it can be geared and protected to go or hone into areas of damage in the brain and repair it,” Gendelman said.

The yearlong trial, beginning in the fall, will monitor 16 patients using sophisticated medical imaging to determine if Luekine has an effect on the brain. This will be the first time this imaging technique is used to monitor Parkinson’s disease, according to researchers.

“To change the immune breakup or makeup in which we change it from being harmful to being protective and in this we can directly engineer immune cells that will regenerate or protect the damage that is ongoing in Parkinson’s disease,” Gendelman said. “If that happens as it has done in experimental animals with a very similar disease then we can elicit a repair and ultimately an improvement of symptoms of motor, of coordination, of gate and thought and action that has occurred as a consequence of the ravages of Parkinson’s disease.”

The study is a joint initiative between the NNA, the department of neurological sciences and pharmacology and experimental neurosciences and the Munroe-Meyer Institute have joined to work on the initiative

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