With the Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases now among the fastest-growing chronic conditions in the United States, many scientists have been focusing on the potential for a new approach to treating the disease: Neurodegeneration.
As Alzheimer’s has gotten worse, scientists have started thinking about a treatment that can help prevent the progression of the disease, and the new research suggests this could be possible.
In the study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Stanford University explored the possibility of using a protein called CREB to turn off genes that cause the disease.
CREB is a type of protein that normally controls how cells grow, but is especially active in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegeners.
The researchers found that CREB activation is also triggered by stress, and by the aging process itself.
CREBS activity increases dramatically in areas that are affected by aging, such as neurons and spinal cord.
The study found that by adding CREB activators to mice, researchers were able to block the CREB-related stress response that’s known to cause cognitive decline.
The mice also developed signs of dementia.
The CREB therapy could potentially treat people with these neurodegenative diseases, which have become so common that scientists are exploring the idea of treating them with CREB therapeutics.
In a follow-up study, the researchers found they could also use CREB blockers to prevent the brain from losing control over its cellular functions.
The new research offers hope for treating these diseases with CREBs, because CREBs are known to be a key part of the body’s aging process, so they could be a potential drug target for treating neurodegens in the future.
“We know that a lot of brain aging has to do with the way cells grow and divide,” said study senior author Mark B. Sadek, a professor of neuroscience at the UT Austin and senior author of the new study.
“This is a good target because it doesn’t have a huge toxicity profile.”
Sadelak said CREB inhibitors are currently used to treat people who suffer from Huntington’s disease and other neurological disorders.
The scientists hope that they will eventually be used to help treat neurodegenters.
The goal of the research was to see if CREB inhibition could block the brain’s response to stress and aging, and to determine whether this would be possible with a drug that targets the brain itself.
“There’s no way to do this for Alzheimer’s,” Sadebk said.
“It’s very unlikely that we would be able to do it for Parkinson’s.”
The researchers also want to find out if they could target a particular gene or protein and if the drugs would be safe.
They will be testing the drugs on mice and humans, but Sadefk said it’s too early to speculate about the potential effects on humans.
CREBs also activate another protein called PKC, which is thought to be involved in memory formation.
The authors of the study also are testing a compound that blocks CREBs activity.
The compound is a synthetic form of CREB inhibitor known as LENIX (Lepidylenetetrazole-2-amine), and it was developed to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Simeon Gogos, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Brain Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health, said it was a nice study because it showed the impact of a compound on brain function.
“If you can block the activity of CREBs in the brain, it could be therapeutic for the Alzheimer-related conditions,” he said.