Japanese researchers successfully have reduced Parkinson’s-like symptoms in mice. The breakthrough could unearth preventive treatments, they said.

Investigators used gene therapy, focusing on a protein called alpha-synuclein found in Lewy bodies. These are the compromised nerve cells that are a signature feature of Parkinson’s. The experiment significantly reduced disease symptoms within 27 days of treatment, they said.

Although existing therapies control symptoms, “there is no fundamental treatment to control the onset and progression of the disease,” lead author Takuya Uehara, M.D., said in a statement. “Therefore, we looked at ways to prevent the expression of α-synuclein and effectively eliminate the physiological cause of PD,” the Osaka University researcher added.

More than 60,000 Americans receive a diagnosis of Parkinson’s each year, and the prevalence increases with age. Secondary disease effects can lead to disability and death. “We expect that in the future, this method will be used to not only successfully treat PD, but also dementia caused by α-synuclein accumulation,” wrote senior study author Hideki Mochizuki, M.D., Ph.D.

The research was published in Scientific Reports.