Last month, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke stopped one of the largest clinical trials for Parkinson’s disease to date. This trial was investigating whether a nutritional supplement, creatine, might have potential to treat Parkinson’s disease.
Scientists found their answer early. Unfortunately, when analyzing the data, the answer was that creatine did not provide a therapeutic benefit to the nearly 1,750 people enrolled in the trial. Not only that, creatine would not help even if the trial were to continue on.
The supplement creatine is an antioxidant that was thought to be able to protect the brain cells lost in Parkinson’s disease and keep them from dying. In these brain cells, scientists have observed that the energy factory of the cell, called the mitochondria, is working very hard. Because of this stress, mitochondria appear to be unable to properly control the toxic by-products of cellular energy production. Scientists had hoped that giving people with Parkinson’s creatine would alleviate that stress and neutralize the cellular toxins, allowing neurons to live longer and help slow the course of Parkinson’s.
As rightfully noted by Dr. Walter Koroshetz of the NINDS, there was an incredible amount of dedication by the scientists and the trial participants. Even though this trial has stopped, a significant amount of data was collected and will be analyzed and published in the coming months – all of which will improve our understanding of PD. Therefore, time and money spent on this trial have not been wasted.
Although this line of experiments has not proven successful – clinical trials are experiments with unknown outcomes, there remain many other clinical trials that are planned or underway. Each of these have the hope of improving the lives of those living with Parkinson’s.