Laurie Mischley is a naturopathic physician at Bastyr University whose years-long research seeking to change the course of Parkinson’s Disease has quietly attracted both national and internatonal interest.
And now the results of two recent research projects relating to her focus on the relationship of glutathione(GSH) to the disease and her intranasal approach to treatment are likely to mean interest in her work will extend beyond academia and foundations into mainstream awareness.
The most recent was publication this week of her research findings from a project funded with a grant from Michael J. fox Foundation that, in essence, glutathione provides a “marker” for Parkinson’s Disease.
The study results showed that the lower the blood glutathione the worse the Parkinson’s, meaning, meaning that testing for low blood GSM might be a signal for the presence of Parkinson’s Disease.
“In essence, we can say now that the absence of glutathione leaves the brain on fire and it will be consumed unless the GSH is restored,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a marker, not unlike cholesterol level and heart disease, that we could modulate rather than simply watching the disease progress?”
The other recent development was a team project, with Mischley as lead investigator working with scientists from Washington State University, that determined, through use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), that glutathione had reached the brain and how to measure it.
Glutathione, called by some “the mother of all antioxidants” and “the master detoxifier,” prevents damage to important cellular components. The body makes its own but its depletion is known to relate to an array of neuro/pshyche diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
“People have been suggesting for more than three decades that glutathione deficiency plays a role in diseases of the brain and central nervous system that finding a way to augment it might be a good idea,” Mischley said. “What we just demonstrated is that squirting it up your nose works to raise brain levels of GSH.”
Explaining the study, Mischley said it showed a boost of almost 250 percent in the glutathione in the brain after 45-to-60 minutes.
”Our results showed that all groups improved over the three months of use, including placebo, enough to warrant further study of glutathione for both symptom management and disease modification,” Mischley said.
Left for a follow-up study, which she said “ideally will be off the ground by the end of the year,” is determining issues like whether the glutathione level continue to rise? How long before it peaks? What happens following multiple doses?
Mischley returned at the end of June from the 20th International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorders in Berlin where her research into the intranasal delivery of glutathione for Parkinson’s patients was given high visibility.
The challenge Mischley talks about candidly is frustration about making the glutathione therapy, intranasal injections of it on a regular basis, available to PD patients, “the formula and delivery need to be improved and partnerships with industry forged.”
“If we had a company to accelerate the research, I sincerely believe we could have the first disease-modifying therapy for PD available in 3-5 years, if cards are played correctly,” Mischley said.
“I came into this years ago to cure Parkinson’s,” she said. “I ndver thought of starting a pharma company, “But the fact is the way I need to proceed if I am to serve my patients and prospective patients is to start one.”
Mischley, 42, was in pre-med studies at Penn State University in the mid-‘90s, assuming that medical school lay ahead when she decided to switch her major to nutrition.
“I was told nutrition is not a science,” she said. “That was my reality check in what I was up against. It was like I was more interested in being a detective trying to solve a mystery and conventional medicine knowing what it is and hiding it.”
Her focus on nutritional medicine and now on Parkinson’s Disease is in line with her philosophy that “if people don’t wonder, they can’t learn. You have to be able to incite curiosity.”
In seeking out a place to study nutritional medicine, she says she found Bastyr had d the only nutritional medicine program, so she came to the campus of what has become the Harvard of naturopathic medicine and got her degree as a naturopathic doctor, and subsequently a PhD and masters of public health at University of Washington.
In 2010 she was awarded a five-year, $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, one of three researchers in the country to receive what was described as a career-transition award, explaining “they thought it was a good idea to train individuals with a clinical doctorate in complementary/ alternative medicine to do research.”
Her research with glutathione and intranasal delivery is helping spur the growing focus on intranasal delivery of drugs destined to address neurological disorders from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to chronic pain and migraine.
In fact, that increasing medical interest in intranasal delivery for drugs focused on disorders of the brain and central nervous system is attracting key angel-investor interest to a rapidly growing Seattle company that makes intranasal devices.
Impel NeuroPharma, which Mischley describes as being “at the top of the food chain” for manufacture of intranasal devices, has already raised millions and scould be key to creating a new biotech category, maybe called drug delivery technology, for which this area could be at the forefront.
Thus Impel and its co-founder and CEO, Michael Hite, will be the focus of next week’s Flynn’s Harp.