By Debbie Kim, WBZ-TV Medical ProducerBy Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) –  There could also be a new drug to help patients with Parkinson’s disease. Most of the drugs on the market right now only target the symptoms.  But Paula Ebben shows us how a new approach could actually slow down the progression of the disease.

Scientists are trying to find a new way to treat a disabling disease, Parkinson’s.

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They’ve published a study in the Journal of Neuroscience that shows a promising finding.  The drug Gleevec, which is on the market now to treat leukemia, may also slow down Parkinson’s.

Researcher Syed Imam, PhD explains, “When we do experimental studies, we see that if you use that drug, it’s going to preserve the neurons that are affected during Parkinson’s disease.”

Initial studies in mice showed that Gleevec helped Parkinson’s by clearing up proteins that accumulate and destroy brain cells.

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WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports.

Researcher Dr. Robert Clark explains, “I think we have an opportunity to develop a treatment for Parkinson’s disease that will actually slow down the progression of the disease rather than simply diminish the symptoms.

The experiments have been going on for three years now.  While Gleevec is promising, it doesn’t penetrate the brain tissue as well as researchers would like, but other drugs in the same class may prove effective.

Parkinson’s affects a half million Americans, and the incidence is rising.  Imam says, “We might not be able to completely cure the disorder, but at least we can slow it down in terms of its progression.”

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The next step is to try the drug on higher animals, like primates.  But experts caution use of the drug for Parkinson’s in humans is still years away

Paula Ebben