Department of Physiology and Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Malta- Msida, Malta
Parkinson’s disease [PD] is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease, affecting 1% of the population over the age of 55. The underlying neuropathology seen in PD is characterised by progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta with the presence of Lewy bodies. The Lewy bodies are composed of aggregates of α-synuclein. The motor manifestations of PD include a resting tremor, bradykinesia, and muscle rigidity. Currently there is no cure for PD and motor symptoms are treated with a number of drugs including levodopa [L-dopa]. These drugs do not delay progression of the disease and often provide only temporary relief. Their use is often accompanied by severe adverse effects. Emerging evidence from both in vivo and in vitro studies suggests that caffeine may reduce parkinsonian motor symptoms by antagonising the adenosine A2A receptor, which is predominately expressed in the basal ganglia. It is hypothesised that caffeine may increase the excitatory activity in local areas by inhibiting the astrocytic inflammatory processes but evidence remains inconclusive. In addition, the co-administration of caffeine with currently available PD drugs helps to reduce drug tolerance, suggesting that caffeine may be used as an adjuvant in treating PD. In conclusion, caffeine may have a wide range of therapeutic effects which are yet to be explored, and therefore warrants further investigation in randomized clinical trials.
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