The thought of treating a number of different brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s with the same drug once was thought impossible, but UK researchers may have an answer. A recent study, says they prevented brain cells from dying with the prion disease. They hope that the same method used to prevent brain cells death could be applied to other diseases.
A number of degenerative neurological diseases result from the build-up of proteins that have not been put together in the proper order, known as misfolded proteins. That happens in Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. It also happens in prion diseases, like the human form of the mad cow disease.
Researchers were able to discover, at Leicester University in England, how the protein builds up in mice that had prion disease, caused brain cells to die. They learned that as the levels of misfolded proteins rise in the brains of mice, cells responded by attempting to shut down production of every new protein.
That same thing was done with cells when they become infected with a virus. They stop production of the proteins, thus stopping the spreading of the virus. However, having to shut that production process down for long periods, ends up causing brain cells to die, as the proteins needed to function are not produced.
The researchers have good reason to believe this same response, identified in the prion disease, applies to many other neuro-degenerative diseases. The researchers them prevented the cells from being shut down and that prevented the brain from dying and the mice were able to live much longer.