In a major advance, scientists have found a pathway which may help treat brain disease — preventing cells from dying.
Research published in Nature, describes a major pathway leading to cell death in mice with prion disease. As the cell became clogged with accumulating mis-folded disease proteins, protein synthesis automatically shut off.
This was the trigger point for cell death, because without key proteins being made, the cell would not survive. Researchers then identified, and injected, a protein to block this “off” switch.
The scientists were able to restore production of cell-survival proteins, halting brain cell degeneration. They found that brain cells were protected, protein levels were restored and synaptic transmission – signalling between brain cells – was re-established.
The findings are at an early stage, but have been called “exciting”.
Many degenerative brain diseases are believed to involve a similar build-up of mis-folded or malformed proteins. These include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s as well as prion diseases such as CJD (mad cow disease).