MAO-B inhibitors are molecules that modify the metabolic pathways that lead to the breakdown of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, required to relay electric signals between two nerve cells and between the brain and muscles.
How MAO-B inhibitors work
Although restoring dopamine levels cannot cure Parkinson’s disease, it can alleviate many of the symptoms brought about because of a decrease in this neurotransmitter.
Monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B) is an enzyme responsible for the chemical breakdown of dopamine in the brain. MAO-B inhibitors act by inhibiting the activity of this enzyme and therefore slowing the breakdown of dopamine.
MAO-B inhibitors can be given either as a monotherapy or they can be combined with carbidopa-levodopa therapy.
Although MAO-B inhibitors have been shown to bring about only a modest decrease in the severity of Parkinson’s symptoms, the use of these medications can delay the reliance on levodopa.
Examples of MAO-B inhibitors used in Parkinson’s disease
Safinamide is the active agent of Xadago. Although it has other modes of action, it also acts as an MAO-B inhibitor. In many cases, the effects of levodopa can wear off for some time. This is referred to as an off episode. Safinamide is used as an add-on treatment during such episodes.
Interactions of MAO-B inhibitors with certain foods and medications are also fairly common. For example, MAO-B inhibitors may interact with antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). It is therefore very important to consult a medical professional before using MAO-B inhibitors in order to determine the right dose and frequency of treatment.
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