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."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at BBC News

Big Think Edge
  • The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
  • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
  • Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.
Big Think Edge
  • Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett breaks down what qualities will inspire others to believe in you.
  • Here's how 300 leaders and 4,000 mid-level managers described someone with executive presence.
  • Get more deep insights like these to power your career forward. Join Big Think Edge.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

In U.S. first, drug company faces criminal charges for distributing opioids

It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.

George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
  • It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
  • Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
Keep reading Show less