Scientists identify proteins that can check 130 illnesses

December 20th, 2010 - 4:49 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 20 (IANS) Scientists have identified hundreds of brain-related proteins, faults in which cause 130 illnesses including Alzheimer’s and autism.The breakthrough could greatly speed the development of new drugs for degenerative and psychiatric illnesses as well as allowing better diagnosis.

Analysing slivers of brain tissue Seth Grant and colleagues at the Edinburgh University identified 1,461 synapse proteins and then linked these to conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and learning difficulties, reports the Daily Mail.

Neuroscientist Grant said: “There is a potential gold-rush, a whole new frontier for drug discovery.”

The excitement centres around synapses, the ‘junction boxes’ that connect nerve cells in the brain and are key to transmitting and processing information.

With each of the brain’s 100 billion cells capable of connecting to more than 1,000 others, faults in the synapses can have devastating effects. Until now, little was known about the proteins that lie at their heart.

Grant said: “In some cases, the proteins acting at the synapse are absolutely vital to the whole nature of the disease.”

“In the case of Alzheimer’s, it is well-recorded that the brain shrinks because of the loss of nerve cells. But what has become apparent is that the synapses rot away before the nerve cells.”

The study also showed synapse proteins have changed little over evolution - perhaps because they are so vital to health.

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