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WesternU Team Advances Understanding of Mechanisms of Learning and Neural Degeneration
Date:1/7/2014

that synaptic NMDA receptors are signaling pathways leading to neural protection, while extrasynaptic NMDA receptors are associated with signaling pathways leading to neural degeneration. This paper examines whether calpain activation participates in either or both of these processes, neural protection or neural degeneration.

“The surprising result is that these two isoforms of calpain are performing opposite functions, with mu-calpain being activated by the synaptic NMDA receptors and required for the neural protection effect and extrasynaptic NMDA receptors activating the m-calpain, leading to neural degeneration,” Baudry said.

“If we can selectively block m-calpain, we can prevent at least some forms of neural degeneration,” he added. “So when you combine both stories, we reach the conclusion that a selective m-calpain inhibitor would be neuroprotective and would also facilitate learning and memory. Therefore, it may be possible to develop one of these compounds as a potential therapeutic agent for quite a lot of applications, not only learning and memory impairment, but neural degeneration or a combination of both.”

The research team has filed a patent on the use of selective m-calpain inhibitors to facilitate learning, and to limit neuronal degeneration.

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About Western University of Health Sciences

Western University of Health Sciences (http://www.westernu.edu), located in Pomona, Calif. and Lebanon, Ore., is an independent nonprofit health professions university, conferring degrees in biomedical sciences, dental medicine, health sciences, medical sciences, nursing, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, podiatric medicine and veterinary medicine. The Chronicle of Higher Education named WesternU a Great College to Work For in 2012 and 2013.

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