Monday, 24 December 2012

Promising new study for Parkinson's

Scientists from the Karolinska Institutet have discovered two molecules that seem to play a vital role in the survival and production of nerve cells in the brain. According to the study ,one of these molecules may have potential stem cell applications for producing new dopaminergic neurons.

In a prior study, the same researchers had shown the importance of certain receptors, called liver X receptors (or LXR), for inducing new production of neurons in the ventral midbrain, with midbrain dopaminergic neurons also belonging to them.

Managing to induce the production of such neurons in humans, would be a great medical achievement as it would bring researchers one big step closer to treating various conditions resulting from the death of dopaminergic neurons. Parkinson's is probably the best example someone can give.

In their latest study, the researchers experimented on an animal model (zebrafish and mice), in order to find molecules that stimulate the LXR receptors, so that neuron production can be initiated. With the help of  mass spectrometry they discovered two molecules that bind to liver X receptors. The first one is cholic acid, a derivate of bile acid and the second one is 24,25-EC a derivative of cholesterol.

Picture of cholic acid
Cholic Acid

The scientists also found out that 24,25-EC can be used to induce stem cells to differentiate into midbrain dopaminergic neurons, the cell type that dies in Parkinson s disease. The findings of the study indicate that there is great potential in employing cholesterol derivatives for the regeneration of dopaminergic neurons.
Ernest Arenas, one of the key researchers, said

"What we have shown now is that cholesterol has several functions, and that it is involved in extremely important decisions for neurons. Derivatives of cholesterol control the production of new neurons in the developing brain. When such a decision has been taken, cholesterol aids in the construction of these new cells, and in their survival. Thus cholesterol is extremely important for the body, and in particular for the development and function of the brain."

Video of Ernest Arenas on dopamine neurons 

Dopaminergic Neurons are a class of neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine.The human brain contains about 400,000 to 600,000 dopaminergic neurons. Dopaminergic neurons are of grave importance to a series of neurological processes including:
  • cognition
  • Fine motor control
  • learning
  • memory
  • motivation
  • pleasure

The main culprit behind Parkinson's disease is the progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons. The study may be very useful in discovering new treatments that stop or even reverse this effect.

Theofilopoulos S, Wang Y, Kitambi SS, Sacchetti P, Sousa KM, Bodin K, Kirk J, Saltó C, Gustafsson M, Toledo EM, Karu K, Gustafsson JÅ, Steffensen KR, Ernfors P, Sjövall J, Griffiths WJ, & Arenas E (2012). Brain endogenous liver X receptor ligands selectively promote midbrain neurogenesis. Nature chemical biology, 9 (2), 126-33 PMID: 23292650

1 comment:

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