Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 73, Issue 7, pp 1365–1379 | Cite as

Current disease modifying approaches to treat Parkinson’s disease

  • Dan Lindholm
  • Johanna Mäkelä
  • Valentina Di Liberto
  • Giuseppa Mudò
  • Natale Belluardo
  • Ove Eriksson
  • Mart Saarma


Parkinson’s disease (PD is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by the degeneration and death of midbrain dopamine and non-dopamine neurons in the brain leading to motor dysfunctions and other symptoms, which seriously influence the quality of life of PD patients. The drug L-dopa can alleviate the motor symptoms in PD, but so far there are no rational therapies targeting the underlying neurodegenerative processes. Despite intensive research, the molecular mechanisms causing neuronal loss are not fully understood which has hampered the development of new drugs and disease-modifying therapies. Neurotrophic factors are by virtue of their survival promoting activities attract candidates to counteract and possibly halt cell degeneration in PD. In particular, studies employing glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and its family member neurturin (NRTN), as well as the recently described cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF) and the mesencephalic astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor (MANF) have shown positive results in protecting and repairing dopaminergic neurons in various models of PD. Other substances with trophic actions in dopaminergic neurons include neuropeptides and small compounds that target different pathways impaired in PD, such as increased cell stress, protein handling defects, dysfunctional mitochondria and neuroinflammation. In this review, we will highlight the recent developments in this field with a focus on trophic factors and substances having the potential to beneficially influence the viability and functions of dopaminergic neurons as shown in preclinical or in animal models of PD.


Neurotrophic factors Neuropeptides Dopamine neurons α-Synuclein ER stress Mitochondria Protein aggregation Neuroinflammation 



The work in the groups is supported by Academy of Finland (DL, MS), Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation (MS), Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MS), Finnish Parkinson Foundation (DL, JM), Minerva Foundation (DL, JM), University of Helsinki (DL, JM, OE, MS) and by Progetti di Ateneo, University of Palermo (VD, GM, NB).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan Lindholm
    • 1
    • 2
  • Johanna Mäkelä
    • 1
    • 2
  • Valentina Di Liberto
    • 3
  • Giuseppa Mudò
    • 3
  • Natale Belluardo
    • 3
  • Ove Eriksson
    • 1
  • Mart Saarma
    • 4
  1. 1.Medicum, Department of Biochemistry and Developmental Biology, Medical FacultyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Minerva Medical Research Institute, Biomedicum-2 HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Division of Human Physiology, Department of Experimental Biomedicine and Clinical NeuroscienceUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly
  4. 4.Institute of BiotechnologyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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