Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 21st 2017 Contents A26 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Friday, April 21, 2017
Scientists hope they have found a drug to stop
all neurodegenerative brain diseases, including
In 2013, a UK Medical Research Council team
stopped brain cells dying in an animal for the first
time, creating headline news around the world. But
the compound used was unsuitable for people, as it
caused organ damage.
Now two drugs have been found that should have
the same protective effect on the brain and are already
safely used in people.
"It's really exciting," said Prof Giovanna Mallucci,
from the MRC Toxicology Unit in Leicester.
She wants to start human clinical trials on dementia
patients soon and expects to know whether the drugs
work within two to three years.
The novel approach is focused on the natural de-
fence mechanisms built into brain cells. When a vi-
rus hijacks a brain cell it leads to a build-up of viral
proteins. Cells respond by shutting down nearly all
protein production in order to halt the virus's spread.
Many neurodegenerative diseases involve the
production of faulty proteins that activate the same
defences, but with more severe consequences. The
brain cells shut down production for so long that they
eventually starve themselves to death.
This process, repeated in neurons throughout the
brain, can destroy movement, memory or even kill,
depending on the disease. It is thought to take place
in many forms of neurodegeneration, so safely dis-
rupting it could treat a wide range of diseases.
In the initial study, the researchers used a compound
that prevented the defence mechanism kicking in. It
halted the progress of prion disease in mice---the first
time any neurodegenerative disease had been halted
in any animal. Further studies showed the approach
could halt a range of degenerative diseases.
The findings were described as a "turning point"
for the field even though the compound was toxic
to the pancreas. Since 2013, the research group has
tested more than 1,000 ready-made drugs on nem-
atode worms, human cells in a dish and mice. Two
were shown to prevent both a form of dementia and
prion disease by stopping brain cells dying.
The best known drug of the pair is trazodone,
which is already taken by patients with depression.
The other, DBM, is being tested in cancer patients.
Prof Mallucci said: "It's time for clinical trials to
see if there's similar effects in people and put our
money where our mouth is. We're very unlikely to
cure them completely, but if you arrest the progres-
sion, you change Alzheimer's disease into something
completely different so it becomes liveable with."
But, although trazodone is a current medication,
she added: "As a professional, a doctor and a scien-
tists, I must advise people to wait for the results." BBC
A favourite childhood pastime---swinging
on the playground swing set---also may be
teaching kids how to get along.
The measured, synchronous movement of chil-
dren on the swings can encourage preschoolers to
cooperate on subsequent activities, University of
Washington researchers have found.
A study by the UW's Institute for Learning & Brain
Sciences (I-LABS) shows the potential of synchro-
nized movement in helping young children develop
collaborative skills. The study is published online
in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Researchers found that the children who swung
in unison completed tasks faster, indicating better
cooperation than those who swung out of sync,
or not at all.
Rabinowitch believes the results of this study
can have implications outside the lab. Teachers and
parents can provide "in sync" opportunities for
groups of children, whether through music, dance
or play. (University of Washington)
Scientists hope they have found a drug to stop all neurodegenerative brain
diseases, including dementia.
Experts excited by brain 'wonder-drug'
More than recess: How
playing on the swings helps
kids learn to cooperate
• A neurodegenerative disease is one in which the
cells of the brain and spinal cord are lost.
• The functions of these cells include decision-making
and control of movements.
• These cells are not easily regenerated, so the effects
of diseases can be devastating.
• Neurodegenerative diseases include Alzheimer’s,
Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and Huntington’s.
(Source: London Brain Centre)
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