High levels of an antioxidant associated with gout can help to slow down the progress of Parkinson's disease, researchers have claimed.
A clinical trial has been launched to see whether it can be beneficial to patients in any way to have increased amounts of urate in their blood and cerebrospinal fluid.
Research funded by the US government and private organisations analysed data and tissue samples collected from 800 Parkinson's sufferers in the 1980s and found that, while there was no immediate proof that higher urate levels could help combat the disease, doctors could eventually better predict the course of the illness. The study was published in the journal Archives of Neurology.
Margaret Sutherland, of the US government's National Institute of Neurological Disorders, said: "This study has identified urate as a bio-marker for the progression of the disease and suggests a potential new pathway for targeted therapy development."
Parkinson's disease attacks brain cells that control movement, causing symptoms such as involuntary shaking, slow movement and impaired balance, which become increasingly disabling. Foods including liver, seafood, dried beans and peas increase levels of urate, which is also linked with gout – a condition that caused pain, inflammation and swelling in joints, the researchers said.