Nasal spray may ease Parkinson’s, other disease symptoms

By Lori Maricle, College of Pharmacy

Jeannie-PadowskiSPOKANE, Wash. – Researchers have reported a 240 percent increase in the brain of the antioxidant glutathione after it is administered via nasal spray. Glutathione deficiency has been documented in a variety of central nervous system disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and bipolar disease.

Jeannie Padowski (, a researcher at Washington State University Health Sciences in Spokane, was part of the team on the pilot project. The results were published in the journal NPJ Parkinson’s Disease ( in February.

The delivery aspect of the project was particularly important because orally administered glutathione is not well absorbed. Intranasal delivery can sometimes be useful for targeting drugs to the brain.

Magnetic resonance measurement unique

The 15 study participants, each with mid-stage Parkinson’s disease, gave themselves a single dose of the antioxidant nasal spray while undergoing magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Using the brain scans of participants before the dose and at intervals in the hour following, the research team was able to observe how well the antioxidant was delivered across the blood brain barrier. Padowski assisted with data interpretation and analysis of the study.

“The use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy to observe changes in chemical composition of the brain over time is novel, and glutathione happens to be one of the few antioxidants you can detect with this approach,” said Padowski.

The “proof-of-concept” study was the first of its kind to demonstrate a noninvasive, self-administered therapy that has potential for boosting glutathione levels in the brain.

Longer-term study underway

While increasing antioxidant levels will not stop Parkinson’s disease, glutathione administration has been reported to reduce symptoms. This could provide patients with a supplement to their standard drug therapy that has the potential to improve their quality of life.

“Studies like this provide important information regarding how brain chemistry may change in response to disease and to therapeutic intervention,” said Padowski. “When successful, they can provide us with clues that could lead to the next treatment breakthrough.”

The research group has a new batch of volunteers who are completing a longer-term study. Participants self-administer nasal glutathione three times daily and undergo magnetic resonance spectroscopy before and after three months of therapy. The measurements will allow the researchers to compare changes in glutathione levels with reported symptoms.

Land-grant mission for health care

Padowski teamed on the study with researchers from the University of Washington, Bastyr University Research Institute in Seattle, the Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Funding came from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Padowski’s main area of expertise is mathematical modeling of drug disposition in the central nervous system. She has extensive knowledge of the processes of drug absorption, metabolism and excretion and the time course of drug effects on the body in relation to the central nervous system.

This research supports WSU’s land-grant mission to address some of society’s most complex issues, specifically developing practical solutions to challenging problems in health care delivery, health care access and disease prevention.


Jeannie Padowski, WSU College of Pharmacy and Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine,
Laurie Mischley, Bastyr University Research Institute,
Lori Maricle, WSU College of Pharmacy communications, 509-368-6679,