Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases are both very common neurodegenerative disorders affecting millions in our world. These diseases are incurable, debilitating and completely devastating for the patients and their families. They are also in the cards for many, because they are related to the aging process. Now there is a little bit more hope that Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s will be cured some day, because a new study co-led by University of Queensland identified an attractive therapeutic drug target.
There are drugs that are being tried to help with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. However, their potential is probably limited, until proven differently during clinical trials. Scientists are looking for new drug targets to improve their abilities to treat neurodegenerative disorders with pharmaceuticals that are already somewhat known and maybe even used. That is why new drug targets for neurodegenerative disorders are being discovered all the time.
This time scientists isolated and analysed the structure and function of a protein found in the brain’s nerve fibres called SARM1. Usually this protein reacts to damage of nerve fibres and induces a form of nerve fibre degeneration, known as axon degeneration. We have no ways to prevent this nerve fibre degeneration. However, now that scientists know that it is caused by the SARM1, they can start looking for drug candidates.
Scientists analysed the structure of the SARM1 using -ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy. 3D images that they’ve created were described as “simply beautiful” and allowed researchers to investigate the purpose and function of the SARM1 protein. Scientists can now begin looking for potential weak points in the SARM1 structure that could be targeted with various drugs. Of course, this process is in its very early stages, but future research will show if these efforts are worth pursuing.
Dr Jeff Nanson, one of the authors of the study, said: “It’s time we had effective treatments for these devastating disorders. We know that these types of diseases are strongly related to age, so in the context of an ageing population here in Australia and globally, these diseases are likely to increase. It’s incredibly important that we understand how they work and develop effective treatments.”
Our societies are quickly aging and both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases are more common among older people. As we are getting older and older, it will become even more important that we find a cure for these common neurodegenerative disorders. If that doesn’t happen soon, we will have so many suffering people in our societies it will begin to look like a public health crisis.
Source: University of Queensland