CoQ10 May Slow Parkinson’s; Phase 3clinical trial taking place in the US and Canada

September 29, 2009

The mitochondria is the part of each of your cells that functions as a power plant. Mitochondria are present by the hundreds to thousands in every one of our trillions of cells. These mitochondria generate about 90% of the energy needed by our body for its daily needs. Parkinson’s disease is a progressively worsening movement disorder that leads to loss of independence and dementia or death. This neurodegenerative disorder is estimated to affect about 1 million people in the United States. The damage that takes place occurs in a part of the brain that regulates movement. Several studies have shown that Parkinson's patients have impaired mitochondrial function.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like substance that is an important link in the chain of chemical reactions that produce energy in each mitochondria. CoQ10 functions as an enzyme but it is also a potent antioxidant—a chemical that "mops up" potentially harmful chemicals generated during normal metabolism and energy production. Several studies have shown that Parkinson's patients have impaired mitochondrial function and low levels of CoQ10. Moreover, laboratory research has demonstrated that CoQ10 can protect the area of the brain damaged in Parkinson's.

Rush University Medical Center is participating in a large-scale, multi-center clinical trial taking place in both the U.S. and Canada to determine whether CoQ10 in high doses, can slow the progression of Parkinson's disease. "At present, the very best therapies we have for Parkinson's can only mask the symptoms— they do not alter the underlying disease," said neurologist Dr. Katie Kompoliti, a specialist in movement disorders. "Finding a treatment that can slow the degenerative course of Parkinson’s is the holy grail of Parkinson's research."

The current study is a Phase III clinical trial. It is large and randomized with a control group. It follows an earlier investigation that tested several doses of coenzyme Q10 in a small group of patients with early-stage Parkinson's disease. The highest dose, 1,200 mg, appeared promising. Over the course of 16 months, patients taking this dose experienced significantly less decline than other patients in motor (movement) function and ability to carry out activities of daily living, such as feeding or dressing themselves.

Participants in the study will be evaluated periodically over 16 months for symptoms of Parkinson's disease, including tremor, stiffness of the limbs and trunk, impaired balance and coordination, and slowing of movements. They will also be assessed for ability to perform daily activities, overall quality of life, and need to take medications to alleviate symptoms.