Compound reverses symptoms of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's in fruit flies
Neurodegenerative disorders likeParkinson's and Alzheimer's are extremely widespread, affectingmillions of people across the planet, but treatments are limited, andthere's currently no cure available. New work is showing promise inthe development of a new treatment, with scientists identifying acompound that can reverse symptoms of the diseases. Themethod hasn't been tested on human patients just yet, but it's beenfound to be effective in genetically modified fruit flies.
Combating neurodegenerative disordersrepresents one of the biggest challenges in modern medicine. Ourunderstanding of conditions like Alzheimer's is improving rapidly,but actually finding effective treatments, and even cures, is provingextremely difficult.
The new study is a collaborative effortbetween the University of Maryland and the University of Leicester inthe United Kingdom. It focuses on metabolites related to an aminoacid called tryptophan, which breaks down into numerous compoundswhen it degrades in the body, which in turn have effects on thenervous system.
Two of these compounds are polaropposites, with 3-hydroxykynurenine (3-HK) having toxic propertiesand kynurenic acid (KYNA) helping to prevent nerve cell degeneration.The team believes that the amount of the two compounds present in thebrain could play a big role in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's andHuntington's disease.
To test that theory, they worked withfruits flies genetically altered to model Alzheimer's and Parkinson'sdiseases, giving them a chemical that inhibits an enzyme known astrytophan-2,3-dioxygenase (TDO). The enzyme controls the relationshipbetween 3-HK and KYNA, with its inhibition shifting metabolism towards thelatter. The effect on the flies was significant, improving theirmovement and lengthening their lifespans.
"A key finding of our study is thatwe can improve 'symptoms' in fruit fly models of Alzheimer's andParkinson's disease by feeding them a drug-like chemical," saidstudy co-author Carlo Breda of the University of Leicester. "Ourexperiments have identified TDO as a very promising new drug target."
Looking forward, the researchers hopeto test the treatment on human patients to see if it does indeedrepresent a new means of combating neurodegenerative disorders.
The findings of the study are publishedonline in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: University of Maryland