Newly identified compound to pave way for brain-protecting drugs

January 26th, 2010 - 2:29 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 26 (ANI): Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have identified a compound that mimics one of the brain’s own growth factors and can protect brain cells against damage in several animal models of neurological disease.

Called 7,8-dihydroxyflavone, the compound is a member of the flavonoid family of chemicals, which are abundant in fruits and vegetables.

Its selective effects suggest that it could be the founder of a new class of brain-protecting drugs.

Led by Dr. Keqiang Ye, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, the researchers were searching for a way to mimic a protein found in the brain called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).

“BDNF has been studied extensively for its ability to protect neurons vulnerable to degeneration in several diseases, such as ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. The trouble with BDNF is one of delivery. It’s a protein, so it can’t cross the blood-brain barrier and degrades quickly,” said Ye.

For the study, the researchers sifted through a library of chemicals to find those that could stimulate one of the proteins on the surfaces of neurons that BDNF binds to.

They could show that 7,8-dihydroxyflavone sends survival signals to brain cells by pulling together two TrkB receiver-dish molecules, just like BDNF does.

Moreover, it is active in the brain when injected into the body cavity, meaning that it can cross the blood-brain barrier.

Ye said that many experimental “neuroprotectant” drugs have been unsuccessful in clinical trials for diseases such as stroke and Parkinson’s over the last decade.

“What’s different is this is a new pathway, offering us new opportunities. This is the first molecule we’ve found that specifically triggers TrkB,” he said.

7,8-dihydroxyflavone could partially prevent the death of neurons in experimental models of three neurological diseases-seizure, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

To show that the effects of 7,8-dihydroxyflavone depended on TrkB, the authors used mice with a modified TrkB gene, which makes their neurons vulnerable to a chemical that is not otherwise toxic.

The chemical could inhibit the effects of 7,8-dihydroxyflavone.

The results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)

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