Researchers at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) are studying the signals in the central nervous system - the brain and the spinal cord - that do not function well, in particular, those signals that cause the death of nerve cells. There are basically two types of cells in the central nervous system: neurones and the glial cells. Both types are sensitive to these functioning errors and both can die. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, it is the neurones, above all, that die. However, in the case of multiple sclerosis, it is a class of glial cells – known as oligodendrocytes – that perish.
From in vitro cells to biological samples of human origin
The researchers at the Neurobiology Laboratory are investigating cells in cultures - neurones, oligodendrocytes or other cells of the nervous system -, and are trying to reproduce in vitro circumstances that are thought to be relevant in these ailments. That is to say, they are creating the conditions that cause the death of these cells, in order to determine what molecules intervene in the process – from the moment of the lethal signal to the point where the cells collapse. In this type of experimental work a series of molecules involved in the death process are identified, the aim being to come up with pharmaceutical medicines that will improve treatment.
Apart from working with in vitro cells, they are also experimenting with animals that reproduce some of the elements involved in neurodegenerative illnesses under certain conditions, i.e. sensory symptoms, motor symptoms, etc. and that can be induced in these animals. And they are examining if these substances that have proved to be interesting with the in vitro cells are also efficacious in these experimental models of the diseases.
Moreover, over the past few years they have had the opportunity to study samples of brains of patients who have died of some neurodegenerative illness, such as, for example, multiple sclerosis. The illnesses leaves a mark in these samples and, although the brain has been at a terminal stage of the illness, they can investigate to see if there are signs of alterations to the molecules similar to those observed in the experiments, both with cells and with the animals. In this way it can be determined if the molecular targets discovered experimentally are relevant or not to the neurodegenerative processes and, if they are, develop pharmaceutical medicines that can neutralise these processes or the elements that enable them to progress, the goal being to halt the process of death.
In collaboration with neurologists they have also been able to access biological samples of patients who have given their consent and donated them to research. Biological samples such as, fundamentally, blood, given that changes in blood plasma that may indicate alterations at the brain level can be identified.
In search of biological samples
All this is a dynamic process that enables clues to be found and which are, in some cases, relevant for developing pharmaceutical drugs that can halt, or at least slow down, the course of a neurodegenerative illness. Apart from finding these molecules or targets that interact with pharmaceutical medicines, in order to stop the process of progressive deterioration, substances that favour the survival of the neurones and oligodendrocytes are also sought; substances such as, for example, antioxidants, given that, in many of the neurodegenerative illnesses the cells die because oxidative stress is produced. In recent years the Neurobiology Laboratory researchers have found a number of antioxidants that put a brake on the dying process and can act as a neuroprotector. Antioxidants of natural origin that are in our diet – fruit, vegetables, and so on – and which, in some way appear to alleviate the damage cause by these illnesses.
In short, the goal is to gain more knowledge about the molecular bases of these pathologies, define therapeutic targets (molecules of the cell that recognise a pharmaceutical drug and thus respond to it) and, in the last analysis, to come up with pharmaceutical medicines that improve treatment.
Irati Kortabitarte | alfa
'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers
16.02.2018 | National University of Science and Technology MISIS
New process allows tailor-made malaria research
16.02.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
16.02.2018 | Information Technology
16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy