By reducing the excess EZH2 protein that accumulated in mice genetically engineered with A-T disease, and creating a better protein balance within the nerve cells, Rutgers scientists found that mice exhibited improved muscle control, movement and coordination.
In the study, mutant mice that had A-T disease and increased levels of EZH2 were "cured" when this excess EZH2 protein was reduced. The treated mice were able to stay on a rotating rod without falling off almost as long as the mice that did not have A-T disease. By contrast, untreated A-T animals lost their balance and fell off the device almost immediately. The mice were also studied in an open area setting. While the treated A-T mice and normal mice explored a wide area of the open field, the A-T mice, with their excess EZH2 protein, were not as adventurous and stayed behind.
Rutgers scientists say the implications of these findings now need to be validated in a clinical setting. They have begun working with the A-T Clinical Center at Johns Hopkins University, collecting blood samples from children with the disease as well as their parents who carry the genes in order to reprogram them into stem cells. This will allow scientists to create human neurons like those in A-T patients and study the mechanisms that lead from ATM mutations to nerve cell disease in more detail.
The hope is that this new information can be used to develop therapeutic drugs that may result in better neuromuscular control and coordination for those with A-T disease. In addition, the scientists will work to determine whether the EZH2 protein plays a role in other more common neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and could offer a target for developing drugs to treat those brain disorders.
"What is interesting about human health and this research in particular is t
|Contact: Robin Lally|