The answers could be in a worm
Many neurological diseases, like Alzheimer's, can be caused by the mysterious faulty function of neuronal proteins, which are still not understood in the scientific community.
Because of this, scientists don't know how neurological diseases develop, what causes their progression or how to stop it. Even the very reason for aging remains elusive.
"We do not know the real reason why we should age. Basically, the body's certain parts are shutting down slowly or abruptly," Ben-Yakar said. "So what things can interfere with this pathway, the natural or biological, to give us insight on how it works? Answering that will give us insight and, secondly, it will help us develop techniques to protect our neurons so that we can live longer and healthier lives."
A challenge to understanding aging and development of degenerative diseases is that new technology is needed to directly characterize how neuronal proteins are distributed across the entire nervous system over time, and how specific neurons degenerate and are malformed with age. A second huge barrier to preventing or treating diseases like Alzheimer's disease is the amount of time it takes to identify drugs that work effectively. Typically, drugs are tested on mice a process that is expensive and requires one to two years for mice to age while testing just a few dozen drugs at a time.
With the NIH grant, Ben-Yakar, Pierce-Shimomura and a team of students aim to eliminate both hurdles by developing an automated system that rapidly reduces the time and cost of drug testing. Instead of mice, the researchers will use a short-lived, 1 mm-long worm, known as C. elegans, to test the effectiveness of millions of drugs.
Despite having only 302
|Contact: Melissa Mixon|
University of Texas at Austin