Stimulating research

January 30, 2006

A joint US and Japanese research team has taken the hope for successful treatments of neurodegenerative diseases a step further...

A joint US and Japanese research team has taken the hope for successful treatments of neurodegenerative diseases a step further. The group has discovered a novel way to stimulate nerve cells to release protective antioxidants (the body's natural defenses against oxidative stress caused by free radicals). Oxidative stress is thought to be aetiologically important in many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's diseases. The causes are not fully understood though accumulation of glutamate - an excitatory neurotransmitter - may be responsible.

The pathway for protection is thought to involve neurite outgrowth-promoting prostaglandins activating the Keap1/Nrf2 pathway, which is responsible for antioxidant production. The research could lead to a new drug treatment for diseases such as Alzheimer's. Currently there are estimated to be 24.3 million dementia sufferers worldwide, a figure predicted to rise to 81.1 million by 2040. The increasing prevalence of dementia is linked to the ageing global population, and has serious repercussions from personal up to governmental levels.