Antimalaria drugs could be an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease

Two antimalarials, amodiaquine and chloroquine, were found to activate a receptor in the brain that is involved in protecting dopaminergic neurons (pictured) that are lost in Parkinson’s disease

Current treatments for Parkinson’s disease (PD) primarily address symptoms and do not slow down the progression of the disease, which involves the death of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. A promising treatment target is the nuclear orphan receptor Nurr1 because it plays a role in both the development and protection of dopaminergic neurons.

By using high-throughput screening of more than 1,500 licensed drugs and natural compounds, researchers have now identified three drugs — the antimalarials amodiaquine and chloroquine, and the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory glafenine — that activate Nurr1.

When administered to a rat model of PD, amodiaquine and chloroquine led to a significant improvement in behavioural deficits, without dyskinesia-like side effects. “Our study shows that Nurr1 could serve as a valid drug target for neuroprotective therapeutics of PD,” the researchers write in PNAS (online, 29 June 2015)[1]


[1] Kim C-H, Han B-S, Moon J et al. Nuclear receptor Nurr1 agonists enhance its dual functions and improve behavioral deficits in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease. PNAS 2015;112(28):8756-8761. doi:10.1073/pnas.1509742112.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 8/15 August 2015, Vol 295, No 7874/5;295(7874/5):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20069062

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