Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed three drugs to remove excess iron from the brains of patients with neurodegenerative diseases. The presence of too much iron in the brain is a hallmark of such diseases. The drugs, VK-28, HLA-20 and M30, mop up the iron before it can trigger a "brain rust" chemical reaction where highly active oxygen particles destroy brain cells.
Professor Moussa Youdim of the Faculty of Medicine and his colleagues – Prof. Avraham Warshawsky (now deceased), Prof. Mati Fridkin and Ph.D. student Hailin Zheng from China – have received U.S. and worldwide patents on VK-28, HLA-20 and M30. Youdim says the three drugs could treat and perhaps prevent a range of diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Unlike other drugs currently used against these disorders – which attempt to replace the functions lost by dying neurons – these drugs halt the neuron destruction itself. Normally, iron is a helpful partner in the body’s metabolism, shuttling electrons between molecules in chemical reactions that break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins, and provide energy to cells. Because iron is so reactive, the body usually keeps tight control over the amount and activity of iron circulating in the brain and other organs.
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