Huntington's disease is one of a number of degenerative diseases marked by clumps of malformed protein in brain cells. Symptoms include abnormal movements, psychiatric disturbances like depression and a form of dementia. The gene responsible for the disease was discovered in 1993, leading to a better understanding of the condition and to improved predictive genetic testing, but it has yet to lead to any treatments that slow the neurodegeneration in Huntington's patients.
Professor David Rubinsztein, a Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Fellow at the University of Cambridge, has been studying the molecular biology underlying Huntington's and other neurodegenerative diseases. Huntington's occurs when a protein known as huntingtin builds up in the brain cells of patients, mainly in neurons in the basal ganglia and in the cerebral cortex. Normally, cells dispose of or recycle their waste material, including unwanted or mis-folded proteins, through a process known as autophagy, or "self-eating".
"We have shown that stimulating autophagy in the cells – in other words, encouraging the cells to eat the malformed huntingtin proteins – can be an effective way of preventing them from building up," says Professor Rubinsztein. "This appears to stall the onset of Huntington's-like symptoms in fruit fly and mice, and we hope it will do the same in humans."
Autophagy can be induced in mouse and fly models by administering the drug rapamycin, an antibiotic used as an immunosuppressant for transplant patients. However, administered over the long term, the drug has some side effects and Rubinsztein and colleagues are aiming to find safer ways of inducing autophagy long term.
Now, Professor Rubinsztein, together with Professor Stuart Schreiber’s lab at the Broad Institute of Harvard/MIT, Boston in the US, and Dr Cahir O’Kane’s group in the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge have found a way of identifying novel "small molecules" capable of inducing autophagy. The research is published today in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
The screening process involves identifying small molecules that enhance or suppress the ability of rapamycin to slow the growth of yeast, though the selected molecules have no effects on yeast growth by themselves. Yeast is a single-celled organism and therefore less complex to study for initial screening purposes.
Three of the molecules that enhanced the growth-suppressing effects of rapamycin in yeast were also found to induce autophagy by themselves in mammalian cells independent of the action of rapamycin. These molecules enhanced the ability of the cells to dispose of mutant huntingtin in cell and fruit fly models and protect against its toxic effects.
"These compounds appear to be promising candidates for drug development," says Professor Rubinsztein. "However, even if one of the candidates does prove to be successful, it will be a number of years off becoming available as a treatment. In order for such drugs to be useful candidates in humans, we will need to be able to get them into right places in the right concentrations, and with minimal toxicity. These are some of the issues we need to look at now."
A room with a view - or how cultural differences matter in room size perception
25.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für biologische Kybernetik
Studying a catalyst for blood cancers
25.04.2017 | University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
25.04.2017 | Life Sciences
25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences