University of Iowa researchers have shown for the first time that gene therapy delivered to the brains of living mice can prevent the physical symptoms and neurological damage caused by an inherited neurodegenerative disease that is similar to Huntingtons disease (HD).
If the therapeutic approach can be extended to humans, it may provide a treatment for a group of incurable, progressive neurological diseases called polyglutamine-repeat diseases, which include HD and several spinocerebellar ataxias. The study, conducted by scientists at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and colleagues at the University of Minnesota and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), appears in the August issue of Nature Medicine and in the journals advanced online publication July 4.
"This is the first example of targeted gene silencing of a disease gene in the brains of live animals and it suggests that this approach may eventually be useful for human therapies," said senior study author Beverly Davidson, Ph.D., the Roy J. Carver Chair in Internal Medicine and UI professor of internal medicine, physiology and biophysics, and neurology. "We have had success in tissue culture, but translating those ideas to animal models of disease has been a barrier. We seem to have broken through that barrier."
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Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
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