Researchers from the Departments of Integrative Medicine, Neurology, and Radiology, at Thomas Jefferson University have demonstrated that the natural molecule, n-acetylcysteine (NAC), with strong antioxidant effects, shows potential benefit as part of the management for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Published in PLOS ONE, the combination clinical evaluations of a patient’s mental and physical abilities along with brain imaging studies that tracked the levels of dopamine, both improved in patients receiving NAC.
Recent research has shown that oxidative stress in the brain may play a critical role in the Parkinson’s disease process, and that this stress also lowers levels of glutathione, a chemical produced by the brain to counteract oxidative stress. Studies in brain cells showed that NAC helps reduce oxidative damage to neurons by helping restore the levels of the antioxidant glutathione. NAC is an oral supplement that can be obtained at most nutrition stores, and interestingly also comes in an intravenous form which is used to protect the liver in acetaminophen overdose.
In the study, compared to controls, the patients receiving NAC had improvements of 4-9 percent in dopamine transporter binding and also had improvements in their Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) score of about 13 percent. According to the researchers “we have not previously seen an intervention for Parkinson’s disease have this kind of effect on the brain.” The investigators hope that this research will open up new avenues of treatment for Parkinson’s disease patients.