Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke are studying special kinds of drugs called nerve growth factors that stimulate the survival and growth of brain cells. Researchers are focusing on drugs such as neurotrophin-4, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and fibroblast growth factor 2.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, researchers are examining how implanting fetal tissues, brain cells and stem cells affect Parkinson's disease. One study in particular focuses on attaching retinal epithelial cells to microscopic pieces of gelatin and implanting them in the brain to begin producing dopamine.
The NINDS reports that several studies are examining the ability of neuroprotective drugs to slow or stop the progression of the disease. Coenzyme Q10--an enzyme in most living cells--as well as the MAO-B inhibitors selegiline and rasagiline are the focus of research because of their mechanisms of action and their promising results in earlier trials.
Several studies under way are looking at the prospect of using gene therapy to treat Parkinson's. The NINDS reports that researchers in these studies use harmless viruses to deliver genes to the brain to stimulate nerve growth, help the brain create dopamine or aid in controlling the over-activity that results from a lack of dopamine.
According to the NINDS, there is no proof that dietary changes or supplements can slow the progression of Parkinson's, or treat it. However, several studies are under way that examine the role of Vitamin B12 supplements, and researchers are also looking at the effects of dietary restriction on Parkinson's disease.