Discovered: A Chemical That Prevents Brain Tissue Death

More tests are needed, but if the chemical can be made into a drug, it could represent a powerful weapon in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis.

What's the Latest Development?


A research team from the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester has discovered a chemical that stops the death of brain cells in mice suffering from a neurodegenerative disease similar to Alzheimer's in humans. The team focused on the ways brain cells defend themselves from a virus. Normally, when attacked, the virus creates a protein buildup, and cells shut down protein production to prevent the virus' spread. Neurodegenerative diseases also cause a buildup of proteins, and cells respond similarly. However, the proteins stay, and the shutdown lasts so long that the cells eventually die. The team developed a compound that kept the cells' defense mechanisms from working. Details were published in a recent issue of Science Translational Medicine.

What's the Big Idea?

This is the first time a compound has been identified that completely prevents neurodegeneration, according to Leicester professor and lead researcher Giovanna Mallucci: "This isn't the compound you would use in people, but it means we can do it and it's a start."  Roger Morris of King’s College London believes the discovery could "be judged by history as a turning point in the search for medicines to control and prevent Alzheimer's disease."

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