Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hopes for new Alzheimer's and Parkinson's treatments

Diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's could be caused by just a handful of genetic "repeat offenders" in the brain, Scottish scientists have revealed.

Researchers have identified a small set of proteins responsible for more than 130 brain diseases, the biggest cause of disability in the world.

The scientists, led by Professor Seth Grant at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Edinburgh University, hope that the identification of such a relatively small number of damaging genetic triggers could lead to new treatments for brain disease.

Professor Grant said: "These diseases include common debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders as well as epilepsies and childhood developmental diseases including forms of autism and learning disability."

Neurology Professor Jeffrey L Noebels, of Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, said around half of the damaging proteins are "repeat offenders", giving researchers a strategic entry point to get to the bottom of brain diseases.

He added: "The rest of us have a front row seat to witness neuroscience unravel the complexity of human brain disorders."

The scientists say the findings open several new paths toward tackling these diseases.

"Since many different diseases involve the same set of proteins, we might be able to develop new treatments that could be used on many diseases", said Professor Grant.

"We also can see ways to develop new genetic diagnostic tests and ways to help doctors classify the brain diseases."

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