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Definition of Dopa

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Dopa: A precursor (forerunner) of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter (messenger) in the brain.

Dopa is used in the treatment of Parkinson disease. Parkinson disease is believed to be related to low levels of dopamine in certain parts of the brain. When dopa is taken by mouth, it crosses through the blood-brain barrier. Once it has crossed from the bloodstream into the brain, it is converted to dopamine. The resulting increase in dopamine concentrations in the brain is thought to improve nerve conduction and to assist in lessening the movement disorders in Parkinson disease.

In 1970 the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved dopa in the form of L-Dopa, or levodopa, for use in the US. The drug revolutionized the treatment of Parkinson disease.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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