TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Discovery of an antibiotic's capacity to improve cell function in laboratory tests is providing movement disorder researchers with leads to more desirable molecules with potentially similar traits, according to University of Alabama scientists co-authoring a paper publishing March 10 in the journal Disease Models & Mechanisms.
"It's our hope that this discovery serves as the impetus for a proper clinical trial to evaluate the potential of drugs like ampicillin for early-onset torsion dystonia," said Dr. Guy Caldwell, associate professor of biological sciences at The University of Alabama. Dystonia is, like Parkinson's disease, a movement disorder. Combined, this class of diseases affects millions worldwide. People with early-onset dystonia have one good copy of the gene DYT1, and one problematic copy, in their DNA. These genes contain the information to make a protein called torsinA.
"When proteins go bad, they often cause disease, but they always have a normal function in our cells," Guy Caldwell said. "We looked to find molecules not necessarily that reversed the mutated form of the protein but instead enhanced the normal activity of the protein, thereby overcoming the deficiency caused by the mutant."
The UA researchers discovered that ampicillin, a common antibiotic of the penicillin group, serves to activate torsinA, which, in its normal form, appears to protect cells from stresses, such as protein misfolding a problem known to impact various movement disorders.
Using a nematode animal model designed to evaluate torsinA activity, the UA lab rapidly screened through hundreds of compounds to identify those that were most effective at enhancing torsinA's normally protective function.
"From there, we collaborated with researchers at Harvard and UAB to validate our findings in human patient cells and mice," said Dr. Kim Caldwell, associate professor of biological sciences at UA.
"In human dystonia patient
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