Research at Washington University in St. Louis could lead to a way to stop the spread of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Researchers including a doctoral student have identified how a corrupted type of protein spreads through the brain potentially causing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and other brain-damaging disorders.
Neurology Professor Marc Diamond says the finding could be huge in battling those diseases.
“By understanding this mechanism it has opened up new possibilities to target these diseases with a completely different type of experimental strategy than has been used in the past.”
That protein attaches to cells via a particular receptor, in a process Diamond says would not take much to interrupt.
“You can take a small molecule that’s drug-like and that will block this process by interfering with the binding of these toxic aggregates with the cell surface.”
Unfortunately, Diamond says, there isn’t a drug to be used yet.
“None that we know of. There are drugs out there that have some of the properties that you’d want to see but in terms of a drug that would be safe to be given chronically and would get into the brain, there are none currently.”
Diamond says work will continue at the University to develop such a drug.
He adds, the findings could similarly help in fighting diseases in animals, such as that commonly called “mad cow disease.”
“The mechanisms that we are talking about here … the original ideas that we developed in my lab that we started testing about ten years ago were derived from understanding of what occurs in animals … those sorts of veterinary disorders could also in theory be treated by the same approach.”
The study can be found online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.