Range of Brain Diseases Could Be Treated by Single Drug
The tantalizing prospect of treating a range of brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, all with the same drug, has been raised by UK researchers. In a study, published in Nature, they prevented brain cells dying in mice with prion disease. It is hoped the same method for preventing brain cell death could apply in other diseases. The findings are at an early stage, but have been heralded as “fascinating.” Many neuro-degenerative diseases result in the build-up of proteins which are not put together correctly—known as misfolded proteins. This happens in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s as well as in prion diseases, such as the human form of mad cow disease. Researchers at the University of Leicester uncovered how the build-up of proteins in mice with prion disease resulted in brain cells dying. They showed that as misfolded protein levels rise in the brain, cells respond by trying to shut down the production of all new proteins. It is the same trick cells use when infected with a virus. Stopping production of proteins stops the virus spreading. However, shutting down the factory for a long period of time ends up killing the brain cells as they do not produce the proteins they actually need to function.
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