Diabetes Drug Liraglutide Promising For Parkinson’s and ALS Treatment

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Plans for a new research venture is in the works in the North-West of England through the joint efforts of the Association for the Independence of Disabled People (AID) and medical researchers at Lancaster University. AID was founded by Mr. Paul and the Hon. Mrs. Ruth Adorian of Windermere, following Ruth’s own diagnosis of motor neurone disease (MND). The association is dedicated to raise funds for potentially groundbreaking clinical trials, and since its founding, has successfully raised more than £80,000 before it began reaching to the public for support.

MND refers to a group of neurodegenerative diseases, inclusive of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Because these diseases are related to each other, scientists are hoping the discovery of a treatment for one disease will open doors for another. Further, MNDs have also been associated with diabetes, leading researchers to believe testing diabetes treatments on MNDs could prove beneficial. In fact, some early results have shown promise.

One of the earlier tests conducted explored the benefit of exendin-4, a peptide agonist of the glucagon-like peptide (GLP) receptor that promotes insulin secretion, on patients with Parkinson’s disease. While the number of participants was limited, exendin-4 exhibited positive effects in maintaining motor activity and cognitive function. The most crucial finding from this study was the observation that the drug’s protective effects were maintained even 12 months after.

Now, researchers have shifted their focus to a more potent diabetes drug. Victoza (liraglutide), a long-acting glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist, may produce significantly better results than exendin-4, as its half-life is 14 hours compared to the latter’s 3.5.

Laboratory studies with liraglutide showed evidence that the drug has the ability to reduce the hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers intend to test the effects of Liraglutide on ALS, the most common type of MND. It will be a multi-centre, double-blind, randomized controlled trial, to be led by Dr. Hedley Emsley and Professor Christian Hölscher, in cooperation with the MND Care and Research Center at the Royal Preston Hospital.

More information about this emerging clinical trial can be found here.