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A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Ursodeoxycholic Acid (UDCA) in Parkinson's Disease.

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Payne, Thomas 
Appleby, Matthew 
Buckley, Ellen 
van Gelder, Linda MA 
Mullish, Benjamin H  ORCID logo


BACKGROUND: Rescue of mitochondrial function is a promising neuroprotective strategy for Parkinson's disease (PD). Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) has shown considerable promise as a mitochondrial rescue agent across a range of preclinical in vitro and in vivo models of PD. OBJECTIVES: To investigate the safety and tolerability of high-dose UDCA in PD and determine midbrain target engagement. METHODS: The UP (UDCA in PD) study was a phase II, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of UDCA (30 mg/kg daily, 2:1 randomization UDCA vs. placebo) in 30 participants with PD for 48 weeks. The primary outcome was safety and tolerability. Secondary outcomes included 31-phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31 P-MRS) to explore target engagement of UDCA in PD midbrain and assessment of motor progression, applying both the Movement Disorder Society Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale Part III (MDS-UPDRS-III) and objective, motion sensor-based quantification of gait impairment. RESULTS: UDCA was safe and well tolerated, and only mild transient gastrointestinal adverse events were more frequent in the UDCA treatment group. Midbrain 31 P-MRS demonstrated an increase in both Gibbs free energy and inorganic phosphate levels in the UDCA treatment group compared to placebo, reflecting improved ATP hydrolysis. Sensor-based gait analysis indicated a possible improvement of cadence (steps per minute) and other gait parameters in the UDCA group compared to placebo. In contrast, subjective assessment applying the MDS-UPDRS-III failed to detect a difference between treatment groups. CONCLUSIONS: High-dose UDCA is safe and well tolerated in early PD. Larger trials are needed to further evaluate the disease-modifying effect of UDCA in PD. © 2023 The Authors. Movement Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.


Funder: Cure Parkinson's Trust

Funder: Jon Moulton Charity Trust; doi:


31P-MR spectroscopy, UDCA, neuroprotection, supervised gait analysis, ursodeoxycholic acid, Humans, Parkinson Disease, Ursodeoxycholic Acid, Double-Blind Method

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