The BBC reported on the discovery of a chemical that prevents the death of brain tissue. In tests on mice, the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester showed brain cell death from prion disease could be prevented.
Researchers used a compound to prevent the natural defense mechanisms that are built into brain cells from kicking in when a virus attacks the brain cell. The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, showed mice with prion disease developed severe memory and movement problems. Mice given the compound showed no sign of brain tissue wasting.
Lead researcher Prof Giovanna Mallucci said of the mice: “They were absolutely fine, it was extraordinary. What’s really exciting is a compound has completely prevented neurodegeneration and that’s a first. This isn’t the compound you would use in people, but it means we can do it and it’s a start.” The compound did show signs of side effects including an impact on the pancreas; the treated mice developed a mild form of diabetes and lost weight.
Jason Karlawish, M.D., Associate Director of the Penn Memory Center, cautioned that studies done on mice don’t necessarily translate into benefits for humans.
“Many studies of treatments in mice have been spectacular, only to fail in man. So, this finding is a bend in the road, but not a turning point,” Dr. Karlawish said.
To read the full BBC report, click here.