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Single Protein Shows Promise In The Treatment Of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Disease, ALS And More

Update Date: Jan 03, 2017 09:30 AM EST
Single Protein
A single protein, Nrf2, may control the disease-causing proteins which trigger the development of neurodegenerative diseases. (Photo : Sean Gallup/Getty Image)

Neurodegenerative disorders affect millions of people worldwide. The sad thing is, there isn't any cure for them yet. Now, a team of scientists found a single protein that has shown promise in the future treatment of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington's disease.

These disorders are usually stimulated by misbehaving proteins in the brain. Usually, these proteins misfold and accumulate in neurons, damaging the cells. In the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists at the Gladstone Institutes used a different protein, called Nrf2, to control the levels of the disease-causing proteins. Nrf2 ensures these proteins are in their normal levels to prevent cellular death.

"Nrf2 coordinates a whole program of gene expression, but we didn't know how important it was for regulating protein levels until now," Gaia Skibinski, Ph.D., lead author of the study, said in a press release by the Gladstone Institutes.

"Overexpressing Nrf2 in cellular models of Parkinson's disease resulted in a huge effect. In fact, it protects cells against the disease better than anything else we've found," she added.

The researchers tested the possibility of restoring the levels of proteins that trigger the development of neurodegenerative disorders. According to the Sun, the scientists tested Nrf2 in models of Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease and ALS. They also tested the single protein in two models of Parkinson's disease - cells with mutations in the proteins LRRK2 and α-synuclein.

What Are Neurodegenerative Disorders?

Neurodegenerative disease is an umbrella term for a spectrum of conditions which primarily affect the neurons in the brain, the EU Joint Programme - Neurodegenerative Disease Research reports. Neurons are the basic building blocks of the nervous system and usually, they don't reproduce. Thus, when they become damaged, they usually die and can't be replaced by the body.

These diseases are incurable and debilitating conditions that result in progressive degeneration of nerve cells. As a result, people suffering from these diseases suffer from movement problems (ataxia) or mental functioning problems (dementias).

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