For the first time, scientists have linked a brain compound called kynurenic acid to cognition, possibly opening doors for new ways to enhance memory function and treat catastrophic brain diseases, according to a new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. When researchers decreased the levels of kynurenic acid in the brains of mice, their cognition was shown to improve markedly, according to the study, which was published in the July issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. The study is the result of decades of pioneering research in the lab of Robert Schwarcz, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry, pediatrics and pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
"We believe that interventions aimed specifically at reducing the level of kynurenic acid in the brain are a promising strategy for cognitive improvement in both healthy patients and in those suffering from a variety of brain diseases ranging from schizophrenia to Alzheimer's disease," says Dr. Schwarcz.
Kynurenic acid is a substance with unique biological properties and is produced when the brain metabolizes the amino acid L-tryptophan. The compound is related to another breakdown product of tryptophan known as quinolinic acid. In 1983, Dr. Schwarz published a paper in the journal Science identifying the critical role excessive quinolinic acid plays in the neurodegenerative disorder Huntington's disease. He has since designed a therapeutic strategy targeting quinolinic acid for the treatment of Huntington's disease. Dr. Schwarcz also is involved in a company called VistaGen, which pursues the development of neuroprotective drugs based on this concept.
In the study published this month, Dr. Schwarcz and his colleagues at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center a world-renowned clinical and basic science research center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine examined mice that had been genetic
|Contact: Karen Buckelew|
University of Maryland Medical Center