In tests with laboratory animals, the Swedish scientists managed to stop the movements completely, having identified the area of the brain where the debilitating movements are activated as a side effect of the medication L-dopa.
Scientists told Sveriges Radio (SR) that the aim is now to develop new medication suitable for humans.
Such an achievement would essentially mean finding a cure for Parkinson’s, or it would at least constitute a functioning treatment, according to Pär Halje, a neuroscience researcher at Lund University.
“We were very surprised, I have to admit,” said Per Pettersson, a neurophysiology researcher at Lund University.
“We had not expected this at all, but since the phenomenon was so clear and was repeated in all lab animals in each test, we realized that we had discovered a new pathophysiological phenomenon.”
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are caused by a breakdown of nerve cells that produce dopamine. This causes slow movement, tremors and stiffness, which can be controlled by medication, but the debilitating side effects kick in after around five years.
Up until now, scientists have believed that the involuntary movements are activated in a deep part of the brain, but the Lund University researchers have for the first time been able to demonstrate that it is the shallow parts of the brain that after several years of treatment become oversensitive to the Parkinson’s disease medication.
With the help of advanced technology, they were able to track brain activity in rats with Parkinson’s and could block the parts of the cerebral cortex that had become oversensitive to the medication.
In Sweden, around 20,000 people suffer from Parkinson’s disease.