Existing anti-malaria drugs could be used for Parkinson's disease: NTU and other scientists

SINGAPORE -Scientists from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), in collaboration with United States McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, have found that existing anti-malaria drugs could potentially be used to treat Parkinson's disease.

The drugs - Chloroquine and Amodiaquine - when tested on rats with the disease - were found to activate a protein called Nurr1, which protects the brain's ability to generate dopamine neurons.

Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter that affects motor control and movement of muscles in the body.

The drugs were found to increase the production of dopamine, which improved the rats' behaviour. They later showed no signs of suffering from the disease.

The team now aims to design drugs for Parkinson's by modifying the drugs - a process that could take five years before reaching clinical trials.

Parkinson's affects three out of every 1,000 persons aged 50 years and above here.

Associate Professor Yoon Ho Sup from NTU's School of Biological Sciences said: "Our research also shows that existing drugs can be repurposed to treat other diseases and once several potential drugs are found, we can redesign them to be effective in combating their targeted diseases while reducing the side effects."