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Jul 28, 2014 06:56 AM EDT

An anti-inflammatory drug can be used to treat some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, according to a new study by the Emory University School of Medicine.

Researchers said that the drug called XPro1595 was found to be effective in a rat model of Parkinson's disease. In humans, the drug would have to be administered by subcutaneous injection directly to the brain.

"This is an important step forward for anti-inflammatory therapies for Parkinson's disease," said Researcher Malu Tansey in a statement. "Our results provide a compelling rationale for moving toward a clinical trial in early Parkinson's disease patients."

According to the National Institute Of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, the motor system disorders associated with Parkinson's disease patients are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells.

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In the experiments on rats, researchers injected the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) into only one side of the brain. The OHDA induces PD symptoms into these animals and makes them behave like they have the disease.

Researchers found that rodents, which were injected with XPro1595 three days after 6-OHDA injection, lost just 15 percent of the dopamine-producing neurons compared to 55 percent in those who were not exposed to the drug. When XPro1595 was given two weeks after injection, 44 percent of dopamine neurons were lost.

The degree of dopamine cell loss was highly correlated both with the degree of motor impairment and immune cell activation.

"Recent clinical studies indicates there is a four or five year window between diagnosis of Parkinson's disease and the time when the maximum number of vulnerable neurons are lost," Tansey said. "If this is true, and if inflammation is playing a key role during this window, then we might be able to slow or halt the progression of Parkinson's with a treatment like XPro1595."

The finding is published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease.

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