Levodopa is a dopamine precursor used in the management of Parkinson's disease. The use of levodopa can alleviate some symptoms of Parkinson's, like slow movements and stiff rigid body parts. Unfortunately, as Parkinson's advances into the late stages, levodopa's effectiveness diminishes. Recently however, a Northwestern University team found that by using gene therapy to target the brain region in mice where the neurons are affected by Parkinson's, levodopa's effectiveness was increased. The gene therapy worked by restoring the neurons' ability to convert levodopa to dopamine, allowing more normal brain functions to take place. Unfortunately, animal research may not always be applicable to humans, and further testing needs to be done. A secondary discover of the research found that in mice, damage to the mitochondria in dopamine-releasing neurons trigger the onset of Parkinson's disease. This discovery may allow doctors to identify signs and diagnose Parkinson's at earlier stages. As such therapy can be employed to slow the disease progression.
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