London: Injecting a
protein into the brain could protect its nerve cells from prion
disease, a condition which causes the brain to wither away, says a
Because the process by which prion disease affects mice brains is
similar to some degenerative brain conditions in humans,
scientists are hoping that the findings could be a breakthrough in
the treatment of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.
In each case, brain cell death is linked to the build-up of
misshapen proteins, forming plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's
sufferers and lewy bodies in the nerve cells of those with
Parkinson's, the journal Nature reports.
In the mice with prion disease, researchers found that when the
faulty proteins begin to accumulate, their cells activated a
defence mechanism which halted the production of such proteins,
according to the Telegraph.
The halt ought to be temporary, but in the diseased mice the
production of proteins, crucial to cell survival, did not start up
Scientists found that by injecting a different protein which
prevents the supply from being "switched off", they could protect
the mice's brain cells for longer and extend their lives.
Giovanna Mallucci, professor at Leicester University, who led the
research, said that it could provide a "way forward in how we
treat other disorders."
Roger Morris, professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences at
King's College London, described the findings as a "major
breakthrough" and said there were "good reasons" for thinking it
could also apply to Alzheimer's.
But Eric Karran, of Alzheimer's Research UK, warned that the
research on the prion protein was in its "early stages" and added:
"We would need to see the same results confirmed in Alzheimer's
and Parkinson's to really strengthen the evidence."