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Research Snapshot: U of M study finds NAC boosts brain and blood glutathione in patients with Parkinson’s and Gaucher’s diseases

Photo: Courtesy of KMSP-TV

U of M researchers use brain magnetic resonance spectroscopy to gauge the effectiveness of NAC for patients with Parkinson's and Gaucher disease.

In a new study recently published in Clinical Neuropharmacology, University of Minnesota researchers tried to determine if N-acetylcysteine (NAC), administered via an intravenous infusion, can alter peripheral blood and brain chemistry in patients with Parkinson’s and Gaucher disease as determined through blood assays and brain magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).

University researchers Paul Tuite, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurology, James Cloyd, Pharm.D., professor in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, College of Pharmacy, and Gulin Oz, Ph.D., associate professor of radiology at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) all partnered on the project.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a more commonly known neurological disorder caused by the deterioration of neurons within the brain. It damages the collection of nerve cells that help control movement known as basal ganglia. Common symptoms of PD include tremors, stiffness, impaired balance and slowed movements. PD affects an estimated one million people in the U.S. including 60,000 new cases each year.

Gaucher disease, on the other hand, is a rare disease in which an endogenous substance accumulates due to a dysfunctional enzyme resulting from a genetic mutation. Some form of the mutation is found in 1 in 50,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S.

For the first time using MRS, U of M researchers were able to show changes in the brain of an antioxidant, glutathione (GSH), in response to NAC administration, proving for the first time that it’s possible to use novel brain imaging methods as a means of tracking a response to a treatment in PD and Gaucher disease.

“This project is the first step of moving NAC towards its actual use for those with PD and we have been evaluating the oral administration of NAC in those with PD in a single dose study,” said Tuite. “We hope to secure funding for a month or longer study for those patients with PD.”

Researchers from multiple disciplines collaborated on this study and included specialists in PD and experts in drug delivery/design/pharmacology and imaging experts from CMRR were able to measure brain chemical changes upon administering NAC.

“We believe this study has also helped set the stage for oral NAC studies for patients with Gaucher disease as well as for people with Parkinson’ disease,” Cloyd concluded.

To see this research study in action, watch this Fox 9 story that aired last year.

Study collaborators also include Mary Holmay, Ph.D. candidate, Center for Orphan Drug research, College of Pharmacy, Lisa Coles, Ph.D., research assistant professor, Center for Orphan Drug Research, College of Pharmacy, and Melissa Terpstra, Ph.D., assistant professor, Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, Department of Radiology.

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