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Key Protein Might Shield Brain Cells

Discovery could spur new drugs for neurodegenerative diseases, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- A protein that can protect brain cells from dying has been identified by U.S. researchers, who said their finding may lead to new drugs to protect against Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Nicknamed GOSPEL, the protein protects brain cells by interrupting a naturally occurring "stress cascade" that results in cell death, explained the researchers, from Johns Hopkins. They said it might be possible to create drugs that mimic the protein.

"This work has potentially broad clinical implications," the study's senior author, Dr. Akira Sawa, director of molecular psychiatry, said in a news release from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

In a series of experiments with mouse brain tissue, the researchers found that GOSPEL competes with another protein when it attempts to latch onto a multifunctional molecule called glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH). By binding to GAPDH itself, GOSPEL prevents the cell death cascade and protects brain cells against toxic compounds, according to the study.

The finding is published in the July 16 issue of Neuron.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about research into preventing Alzheimer's disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, July 15, 2009

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