Brain diseases: Single drug for a range of diseases may become reality
Researchers of UK have raised hope of treating a wide spectrum of brain diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's with the common drug.
During their research, the researchers saved brain cells dying in mice with prion disease.
This success raised hopes that the same method for preventing brain cell death could be applied in other diseases as well.
Though the findings are at an early stage, but can be termed as "fascinating".
Many neuro-degenerative diseases occur in the build-up of proteins, which are not put together correctly - these are called as misfolded proteins. Such things take place in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's as well as in prion diseases, such as the human form of mad cow disease.
University of Leicester researchers revealed how the build-up of proteins in mice with prion disease led to brain cells dying.
The results of the study revealed that as misfolded protein levels rise in the brain, cells reacts to stop the production of all new proteins.
The cells behave in same manner when got exposed to a virus. Due to stopped production of proteins virus becomes unable to spread. On the other hands, shutting down the factory for an increased period will ends up killing the brain cells as they do not produce the proteins they actually require to function.
The team of researchers at the Medical Research Council laboratory in Leicester then made efforts to modify the switch, which stopped the protein factory. When researchers stopped the cells from shutting down, they prevented the brain dying. The mice in experiment lived comparatively longer.
Each neuro-degenerative disease leads to a unique set of misfolded proteins being produced, which are then thought to cause brain cells dying.
"The novelty here is we're just targeting the protein shut-down, we're ignoring the prion protein and that's what makes it potentially relevant across the board," Prof Giovanna Mallucci has been quoted saying to BBC.
However it has not been verified that if preventing the shutdown protects the brain in prion disease - the experiment might do well in all diseases that have misfolded proteins.
"What it gives you is an appealing concept that one pathway and therefore one treatment could have benefits across a range of disorders," Prof Mallucci has been quoted as saying.
"But the idea is in its early stages. We would really need to confirm this concept in other diseases," he said.
The study, published in Nature, has been well appreciated by scientists but some says that research is in its initial stage.
Professor of Molecular Neurobiology at King's College London, Roger Morris, said it was a "breakthrough in understanding what kills neurons".
"There are good reasons for believing this response, identified with prion disease, applies also to Alzheimer's and other neuro-degenerative diseases.
"And because it is such a general response, we already have some drugs that inhibit this response," he explained.
Prof Andy Randall, from the University of Bristol, stated: "This is a fascinating piece of work.
"It will be interesting to see if similar processes occur in some of the common diseases with such deposits, for example Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
"Furthermore, if this is the case, can modulating this same pathway be a route to new therapeutic approaches in these more prevalent conditions that afflict many millions of sufferers around the world? Ultimately only more research will tell us this," Prof Randall explained.
Dr Eric Karran, the director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "The findings present the appealing concept that one treatment could have benefits for a range of different diseases; however the idea is in its early stages.
"The research focuses on the effects of the prion protein and we would need to see the same results confirmed in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to really strengthen the evidence," said Dr Karran.
--with inputs from ANI
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