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Nobel Prize Winners Discovered Receptors with Relevance to Parkinson’s Disease

American scientists Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka were today awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discoveries surrounding receptors that play a role in certain medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Studies into so-called G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are critical to drug development: About half of all medications, including those as diverse as antihistamines, beta blockers, and antipsychotics, work by acting on them. Parkinson’s drugs such as Mirapex and Requip target dopamine receptors, which are members of the GPCR family.  Research into developing new PD drugs against GPCRs is ongoing.

“G-protein-coupled receptors are ubiquitous in the function of cells in the body and help us to sense light, flavour and odour,” explains David Phillips of the Royal Society of Chemistry.  “They are also responsible for the human body’s reactions to chemicals such as adrenaline, histamine, dopamine and serotonin – which are associated with medical conditions such as allergies, depression and Parkinson’s disease. But before Lefkowitz identified them and, together with Kobilka, determined how they work, nobody even knew they existed.”

This year has marked intriguing study results into Parkinson’s treatments focused on certain kinds of glutamate receptors, which are a type of GPCR.

Geneva-based Addex Therapeutics recently announced positive data from a phase 2 clinical study of their drug dipraglurant, which targets a receptor called mGluR5 as a treatment for limiting dyskinesia in people with PD.

And a team funded by MJFF and led by Vanderbilt University’s Jeff Conn, PhD, agreed to a major development deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb to develop a symptomatic treatment for PD targeting another receptor called mGluR4.


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