Protein That Increases Dopamine Release Could Become Parkinson’s Therapy, Study Reports

Alice Melão avatar

by Alice Melão |

Share this article:

Share article via email
misfolded proteins

Administering a naturally occurring protein directly to the brains of rats increased the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine going to the animals’ nerve cells, suggesting it could be a way to treat Parkinson’s, a study reports.

The findings further demonstrate the MANF protein’s potential to treat Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders, according to the company developing such a therapy, MANF Therapeutics. MANF Therapeutics, a subsidary of Amarantus Bioscience, is conducting preclinical-trial studies on the potential treatment that it hopes will lead to trials.

One of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s is the death of dopamine-producing brain cells. Dopamine facilitates  communication between nerve cells.

Another Parkinson’s hallmark is the clumping of abnormal forms of α-synuclein protein in nerve cells — which scientists call Lewy bodies.

Preventing these two events could be a way to treat the disease, researchers believe.

MANF proteins belong to a protein group called neurotrophic factors. They help maintain nerve cells’ health and function and promote their recovery from injury.

Because of these characteristics, researchers have been looking at the proteins as potential therapies for central nervous system conditions such as Parkinson’s. The full scientific name for MANF proteins is mesencephalic astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor proteins.

The main idea behind using neurotrophic factor proteins as Parkinson’s treatments is they may be able to rescue the dopamine-generating nerve cells that have deteriorated in the disease.

But MANF Therapeutics said MANF proteins may not only be able to rescue dopamine-generating nerve cells but also increase dopamine release — a significant improvement over other approaches. Scientists have been doing preclinical-trial studies of MANF proteins as a possible treatment for glaucoma as well as Parkinson’s.

In a recent study, researchers compared the effects of administering different neurotrophic factor proteins, including MANF, to a specific region of the brains of healthy rats.

The research, “Mesencephalic Astrocyte-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (MANF) Elevates Stimulus-Evoked Release of Dopamine in Freely-Moving Rats,” appeared in the journal Molecular Neurobiology.

A week after the treatment, the brain cells of the rats that received MANF proteins were releasing a lot more dopamine in response to stimulus than animals treated with other neurotrophic factor proteins or a placebo.

“Although the cellular mechanisms remain to be clarified, knowing the biological effects of exogenously administrated NTFs [neurotrophic factor proteins] in [an]intact brain is an important step towards developing novel neurotrophic treatments for degenerative brain diseases,” the researchers wrote.

“These data are significant because they propose a unique mechanism of action for MANF in Parkinson’s disease that provides a rationale for potentially improved treatment efficacy with MANF versus other neurotrophic factors in development,” MANF Therapeutics said in a press release.