Patients suffering from Parkinson's disease can look forward to a side-effect free version of their dopamine (Levodopa) medicine in the not-too-distant future.

Investigators from the University of Lund in Sweden have successfully come out with a method to figure out the mechanism in the brain that is said to cause these side effects of Levodopa, one o fthe most common medications used to treat symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

The drug contains a man-made version of the brain chemical dopamine that can be helpful in controlling involuntary movements among patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, an ailment of the nervous system that causes stiffness and shaking of the limbs.

Research has suggested that long-term usage of dopamine can cause side-effects like involuntary and jerky movements known medically as Dykinesias. However, there is no clarity on what actually causes these adverse reactions.

Thus far, researchers have been unable to determine an appropriate method to investigate the mechanism by employing laboratory animals. The study group at the University of Lund has come up with a new method to accurately mark out the mechanism of the brain that leads to side-effects.

“We use a harmless virus that introduces a small gene into the nerve cells. In a process involving several stages, the gene causes the nerve cells to stop producing dopamine, without destroying them,” explains Ayse Ulusoy, one of the researchers who participated in the project.

Among patients of Parkinson's disease, some of the nerve cells producing dopamine may die. Simultaneously various other cells present the brain seem to undergo alterations. This transferring of functions due to the death of dopamine producing brain cells make the detection of the changes leading to the dyskinesias practically difficult.

The scientists developed the laboratory rats’ nerve cells which generally function normally. These nerve cells could allow them to unlock the mechanism behind dyskinesias whereby they found a link to the nerve cells that can release dopamine.

In the study, which appears in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), the researchers suggest that the findings will help in developing a more patient-friendly treatment of Parkinson’s disease in the near future.