Can Salbutamol Protect People From Parkinson's?
When people with asthma have difficulty breathing, they often use an inhaler with a medication to expand the airways. The drug salbutamol used for this seems to have another important effect: It protects against Parkinson's disease.
In their investigation, the scientists from the University of Bergen and the internationally recognized Harvard University found that the drug salbutamol not only helps with asthma, but is also effective in the treatment of Parkinson's. The doctors published the results of their study in the scientific journal "Science".
Salbutamol can reduce the likelihood of Parkinson's disease by half
When people took the highest concentrations of salbutamol, they were only half as likely to develop the devastating neurological disease compared to people who had not taken the drug, the experts explain.
What happens in Parkinson's?
With Parkinson's disease, certain nerve cells in the brain die. This is related to the accumulation of the α-synuclein protein. Scientists have long been trying to develop drugs that can accelerate protein removal or completely prevent such accumulation. In their current study, the researchers tried a new approach to treatment. They were looking for a drug that could avert the production of α-synuclein.
The search for active ingredients for the treatment of Parkinson's
In order to identify the most promising compounds, the research team grew human nerve cells in a laboratory. Then the medical team checked more than 1,100 medications, vitamins, dietary supplements and other molecules to see if they alter the production of α-synuclein.
Salbutamol is one of the most widely used drugs in the world
Three of the drugs that reduce protein production (including salbutamol) worked by stimulating the so-called b2 adrenoreceptor. This can trigger a variety of effects, including relaxation of the airways. Salbutamol is one of the most widely used drugs in the world.
Scientists use a database from Norway for their study
For their investigation, the scientists needed as much data as possible about prescription drugs with several years of follow-up examination. The researchers found such a database in Norway. It contained a record of all prescription drugs for each of Norway's 4.6 million residents.
The single intake of salbutamol protects against Parkinson's
Parkinson's disease is very rare. About 0.1 percent of people who did not use the drug developed Parkinson's disease. Only about 0.04 percent of people who used salbutamol developed Parkinson's, the study authors explain. The researchers also took factors such as age and education into account in their investigation. They found that if people had taken salbutamol at least once in their lives, this resulted in them being about a third less likely to develop Parkinson's.
Effect depends on the dosage
The protective effect of salbutamol depends on the dosage. When Norwegians received the highest doses of salbutamol, they were only half as likely to develop Parkinson's in the following seven years compared to people who did not take the drug. In contrast, patients who received the lowest doses had a slightly reduced risk, the scientists explain.
More research is needed
Given that some people have Parkinson's and asthma at the same time, other factors that correlate with the use of salbutamol could affect the likelihood of Parkinson's disease. Other possible explanations must also be considered, the scientists say. Additional research is needed to further investigate the effects of salbutamol on Parkinson's disease. (as)