The protein cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) appears in high concentrations in parts of the brain ravaged by Parkinson’s disease, a new study shows, suggesting that this molecule plays a role in the disease. Scientists made the finding, which appears in the April 29 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by studying the brains of deceased Parkinson’s patients.
The researchers also found that a COX-2–inhibiting drug preserves brain cells in live mice that have a version of Parkinson’s disease.
Taken together, the findings suggest that COX-2 inhibitors should be tested on Parkinson’s patients immediately, says study coauthor Serge Przedborski, a neurologist at Columbia University.
COX-2 inhibitors, such as the arthritis drug celecoxib (Celebrex), are already among the largest-selling anti-inflammatory agents on the market. However, the new research suggests that the drugs might not slow Parkinson’s by stopping inflammation, Przedborski says. Rather, the drugs stop COX-2 from converting dopamine–a major neurotransmitter that’s in short supply in Parkinson’s patients–to a toxic form suspected of playing a role in killing brain cells, he says.
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