Stopping the production of two enzymes associated with damage to brain cells may be the key to reversing symptoms linked to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, giving renewed hope to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s caregivers. In laboratory studies involving fruit flies, researchers observed that lowering toxic metabolites caused by a process in the liver resulted in improved motor skills and signs of improved cognitive functioning.
Reducing Toxic Enzymes
During the five-year study, researchers discovered that lowering levels of the enzymes tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase (TDO) and kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO) provided added protection for brain cells. A combination of genetic adjustments and the use of certain drugs was used to reduce levels of these enzymes that become toxic when metabolized by the liver.
Protecting Brain Cells
Scientists already know that nerve cells in people with progressive conditions like AD and PD die in clusters in the parts of the brain affecting cognitive skills and motor functioning. Researchers discovered that reducing the TDO and KMO enzymes results in an increased production of kynurenic acid, a biochemical thought to protect nerve cells.
Preparing for an Aging Population
By 2050, nearly 90 million people in the United States will be 65 and older, according to Census Bureau estimates. Since the process of aging increases the risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, researchers hope that identifying the cause of brain cell degeneration may shift the focus from managing symptoms to preventing the condition from progressing after a diagnosis is made.
Scientists plan to continue research into protective proteins like kynurenic acid with the goal of developing effective drugs to reduce the number of harmful enzymes in AD and PD patients when trials advance to include mammals and humans. British researchers announced plans to launch a clinical trial to study the glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), another protein that may help protect brain cells.
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