Finding a drug to reduce involuntary movements

Characterization of bitopertin, selective glycine transporter 1 inhibitor, for the treatment of Parkinson disease

Imane Frouni
University of Montreal
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years

Involuntary movements, called dyskinesia, are among the most troubling side-effects people with Parkinson’s disease experience after they have been taking levodopa for a long time to treat their tremors, stiffness, and slowness.

At the Montreal Neurological Institute, PhD student Imane Frouni is seeking a way to reduce or stop both dyskinesia and psychosis, another side-effect of levodopa.

Frouni is working with an experimental model to administer a drug that blocks a protein, called glycine transporter 1 (GlyT1), in the glycinergic system of the brain.

The tricky part of combining the drug that blocks GlyT1 with levodopa is ensuring the additional drug doesn’t interfere with levodopa’s positive effects.

“Dyskinesia is very debilitating …. Your body is moving without your consent. This drug hopefully is going to stop this.”

“We are trying to stop the dyskinesia and not interfere with what levodopa is doing with the motor symptoms,” Frouni says.

If Frouni is successful, adding the other medication to levodopa could result in major improvements for people with Parkinson’s disease.

“Dyskinesia is very debilitating …. Your body is moving without your consent,” Frouni explains. “This drug hopefully is going to stop this complication and people will have a better quality of life.”

The drug is already in clinical trials to treat people with schizophrenia.

“It has shown an anti-psychotic effect in schizophrenic patients …. We’re going to try to apply it in Parkinson’s disease,” she says.

Frouni’s research could lay the basis for larger clinical trials. Because the drug she is working with is already undergoing clinical trials for other medical conditions, if her results were positive it would not take as long to get the drug approved for a trial involving people with Parkinson’s disease as it would take for a wholly new compound.

Frouni has met many people with Parkinson’s disease, and empathizes with their struggles with dyskinesia.

“I try to imagine myself in a few years with motor symptoms, not being able to control my body. It’s scary.”

As a child, Frouni wanted to become a cardiologist. But a career in neuroscience and pharmacology won out when she became intrigued with the study of the brain during her undergraduate degree in biochemistry.

“It got fun,” she says.

How your support made this research project possible

Translational research – turning research into practice – is an under-funded area of research, says Frouni. She’s chosen to focus on finding a drug or therapy that will improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease, rather than more basic science to understand how and why Parkinson’s disease occurs.

This grant from Parkinson Canada will help the lab she works with produce good results, she says.
That’s why she encourages people to continue to give to Parkinson Canada.

“If we don’t have enough funds, we can’t do the research. If we don’t do the research, we can’t produce the results. How are we going to help patients or anyone if we don’t receive donations from people?”

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