Contera Pharma wants to develop new medications for patients suffering from movement disorders for which there is currently no good treatment.
Movement disorders are a group of diseases that affect the ability to produce and control body movement,
and are often associated with neurological disorders or conditions associated with neurological dysfunction.
Movement disorders may manifest themselves in abnormal fluency or speed of movement, excessive or involuntary movement, or slowed or absent voluntary movement.
One example of a movement disorder is dyskinesia which characterized by various involuntary movements,
which can affect discrete body parts or can become generalized and severely disabling.
Often, the neurological disorder or condition which causes the movement disorder is associated with dysfunction of the basal ganglia.
The dysfunction may be idiopathic, induced by certain drugs or infections, or caused by genetic defects.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is an example of a neurological disorder associated with dysfunction of the basal ganglia.
PD results in movement disorders and is characterized by muscle rigidity, tremor, postural abnormalities,
gait abnormalities, a slowing of physical movement (bradykinesia) and in extreme cases a loss of physical movement (akinesia).
The disease is caused by progressive death and degeneration of dopamine (DA) neurons in substantia nigra pars compacta and a dysfunctional regulation of dopamine neurotransmission.
In order to replace the lost dopamine, PD is currently treated with Levodopa
(L-DOPA, a precursor of dopamine), with dopamine agonists or other agents that act by increasing the concentration of dopamine in the synaptic cleft.
PD is a common disease and affects 1% of persons above 60 years of age.
Unfortunately, the treatment of PD with L-DOPA often gives rise to dyskinesia (diminished voluntary movements and presence of involuntary movements)
in advanced PD patients with impaired regulations of DA levels.
This specific type of dyskinesia is called L-DOPA Induced Dyskinesia (LID) and is caused by excessive dopamine levels in the synapses (Jenner: Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008; 9(9): 665-77).
About 50% of patients treated with L-DOPA develop LID, which severely limits optimal treatment and reduce quality of life.
Movement disorders induced by drug therapy can also be related to treatment of other neurological or psychiatric diseases. Examples of these are tardive dyskinesia and akathesia,
which are commonly developed as a side effect of long term treatment with neuroleptics for instance in patients suffering from e.g. schizophrenia.
Tardive dyskinesia may persist after withdrawal of the drug for months,
years or can even be permanent. The primary prevention of tardive dyskinesia is achieved by using the lowest effective dose of a neuroleptic for the shortest time.
If tardive dyskinesia is diagnosed, the therapy with the causative drug is discontinued.
Both of these approaches cause difficulties for the therapeutically use of neuroleptics.