MDMA "Miracle Cure" for Parkinsons?
dana at phantom.com
Wed Aug 10 11:12:58 EDT 2005
From: writch at writch.com
Subject: MAPS: new studies show MDMA to be effective in treating
Some of you might have heard me mentioning this a few years back.
I've seen anecdotal studies which indicated that MDMA (Ecstasy) was
amazing in restoration of lost functionality in Parkinson's. In
particular heard about a gymnast who was able to do backflips again
after taking some.
If you think about it, it's really pretty funny. The 'miracle cure'
for Parkinson's due to successful attempts at evasion of drug law
restrictions (If you recall, they had to change the drug laws to deal
with Ecstasy and those things like it).
There are some clinicals, too (below and linked), for those of you who
would prefer numbers to stories:
p.s., you might sign up for the MAPS forum yourself (see the bottom of
the message for the link).
Begin forwarded message:
Date: August 8, 2005 3:35:30 PM MDT
To: <MAPS_forum at maps.org>
Cc: Subject: MAPS: new studies show MDMA to be effective in treating
August 2, 2005. Ironically, after NIDA-funded researchers Drs. McCann
and Ricaurte claimed that MDMA damaged dopamine neurons and could cause
Parkinson's disease, a claim that they later had to retract, new
research ( http://u.pvnm.org/-l-x_n-I_c ) conducted at Duke University
Medical Center has shown that MDMA is the most effective of 60 drugs
tested in reversing the symptoms of Parkinson's disease! This research
was discussed in an article in News-Medical.Net.
Durham, N.C. --
Amphetamines, including the drug popularly known as Ecstasy, can
reverse the symptoms of Parkinson's disease in mice with an acute form
of the condition, according to new research at Duke University Medical
The researchers caution that the findings in animals do not suggest
Parkinson's disease patients should find relief by taking amphetamines,
which are drugs of abuse with many dangerous side effects. The findings
rather indicate that drugs with similar chemical attributes might offer
useful alternatives to current therapies, the researchers said.
The new study also shows that amphetamines -- normally thought to act
by increasing dopamine concentrations in the brain -- correct the
behavioral abnormalities associated with Parkinson's in mice devoid of
the brain messenger. Dopamine normally acts on dopamine receptors --
protein switches on the surface of neurons -- to stimulate brain
processes that affect movement, emotion, pleasure and mood.
Parkinson's disease stems from the degeneration of neurons in a brain
region that controls movement. That degeneration, in turn, leads to a
shortage of the chemical messenger dopamine. The finding that
amphetamines can alter movement independently of dopamine opens up new
directions in the search for prospective anti-Parkinsonian drugs, the
The researchers, led by James B. Duke professor of cell biology Marc
Caron, Ph.D. and Assistant Research Professor Raul Gainetdinov, M.D.,
Ph.D., of Duke, made the discovery after testing the utility of more
than 60 compounds for reversing Parkinson's symptoms in a mouse model
of the disease. Developed by the Duke team, the mice lack detectable
brain levels of dopamine and experience essentially all the symptoms of
Parkinson's disease for several hours before recovering their normal
behavior. Caron is also a researcher of the Duke Institute for Genome
Sciences & Policy.
The team reports its findings in the August 2005 issue of Public
Library of Science (PLoS) Biology. The research was sponsored by the
National Institutes of Health and a donation from The Long Island
Community Foundation, a division of The New York Community Trust.
"This model is exciting because it allows us to examine the potential
contribution of systems other than dopamine to Parkinson's disease,"
said Caron. "We may be able to discover avenues for treatment that had
never been thought about before or that were impossible to
The new mouse model enables the researchers to acutely eliminate
dopamine, exposing systems contributing to the disease that may not
have been obvious before, he explained. The severity of disease
symptoms in the mice also provides a very sensitive test for compounds
with potential therapeutic value, the researchers said.
In the United States, at least 500,000 people suffer from Parkinson's
disease, and about 50,000 new cases are reported annually, according to
the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. These
figures are expected to rise as the average age of the population
increases. Symptoms of the disease include tremors, slow movement or an
inability to move, rigid limbs and a shuffling gait. Progression of the
disease also leads to severe impairment in cognitive function.
Dopamine replacement therapy which involves administration of the
dopamine precursor, L-DOPA, remains the gold standard for Parkinson's
treatment, said Tatyana Sotnikova, Ph.D., of Duke. However, the
efficacy of the therapy wanes with time, and patients often develop
fluctuations in motor performance and other adverse reactions.
In the current study, the researchers treated mice unable to recycle
dopamine with a drug that also prevented them from manufacturing the
brain messenger. The brains of the mice therefore lack detectable
levels of dopamine and the animals exhibit all the symptoms of
Parkinson's disease for up to 16 hours. Those symptoms included
severely impaired movement, rigidity and tremor. When treated with
L-DOPA, the symptoms disappeared as the animals resumed normal
Surprisingly, the researchers reported, treating mice lacking dopamine
with high doses of amphetamine derivatives including methamphetamine
and MDMA, otherwise known as Ecstasy reversed those symptoms. Ecstasy
was most effective at counteracting the manifestations of Parkinson's
symptoms in the mice, with the beneficial effects becoming more
pronounced with increasing dose.
The researchers also report that low doses of amphetamines could, when
combined with L-DOPA, potentiate minimally effective doses of L-DOPA in
the mice. This could have important considerations in reducing some of
the side effects of current therapy.
"The locomotor stimulating effect of amphetamine and its derivatives
are classically thought to result from a massive flood of dopamine,"
said Sotnikova. "However, the mice have only a tiny fraction of
dopamine, which cannot be recycled, precluding a rise in dopamine as
the possible mechanism.
"Taken together, the findings indicate that Ecstasy can improve
movement control independently of dopamine and, most importantly
provide evidence that drug activation of other neuronal pathways may be
sufficient to restore movement even in the virtual absence of dopamine
neurotransmission," she added.
Amphetamines might reverse the animal's symptoms through their effects
on a different group of receptors called trace amine receptors, the
researchers suggested. Recent evidence showed that amphetamines act on
trace amine receptors in addition to dopamine transmission, yet little
is known about their physiological role in mammals.
The current findings are particularly promising given the severity of
symptoms in the mice completely lacking dopamine, said Gainetdinov. "We
think that this new animal model provides a much more stringent test
for potential drugs that might prove efficacious in patients with
Many of the previously developed animal models of Parkinson's disease
have reduced, but detectable, levels of dopamine and do not show all
the characteristics of Parkinson's disease, making studies of potential
therapeutic methods in those animals less clear, Gainetdinov said. On
the other hand, animals permanently lacking dopamine cannot survive, he
While the results are promising, the researchers cautioned, Ecstasy's
ability to stimulate movement in the mice occurred only with high doses
of the drug. Such high doses might destroy nerve tissue in normal mice
and in humans, who are generally more sensitive than mice to such
"Amphetamines are controversial drugs, and there's no reason to
suggest that amphetamines themselves should be used to treat
Parkinson's," Gainetdinov said. "However, the chemical structure of
amphetamines may lead to new, amphetamine-like drugs, that might
provide a more lasting and beneficial alternative to L-DOPA in the
treatment of Parkinson's disease."
Collaborators on the study include Jean-Martin Beaulieu, Larry S.
Barak and William C. Wetsel all of Duke.
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