2016 Mental Health Month: Drugs that can help reverse symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders

2016 Mental Health Month: Drugs that can help reverse symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders

The onset of Alzheimer’s disease is no less than a catastrophe for a person and his family. The devastating disease that causes deterioration of mind and memory posing an enormous social and economic burden, has been a subject of research for long. Similar concern lies with patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a prolonged mental illness that grows worse with every passing day.

A recent study conducted over a period of five years by the University of Leicester has suggested a method to counter the signs of mental disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, that cause degeneration of the nervous system. In the study, titled “Tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase (TDO) inhibition ameliorates neurodegeneration by modulation of kynurenine pathway metabolites,” the scientists used genetically altered fruit flies, also known as Drosophila melanogaster, to demonstrate that the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases can be reversed.

Inhibition of certain enzymes can reduce loss of neurons

The study, published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in April 2016, showed how use of drugs or making certain genetic variations can help reduce levels of toxic metabolites in the nervous system, thus lowering the effects of neurodegeneration. The researchers examined how some metabolites in the kynurenine pathway cause gradual reduction of nerve cells in people afflicted with neurodegenerative diseases.

The study focused on metabolites associated with amino acid tryptophan, which degrades in the body to disintegrate into compounds such as 3-hydroxykynurenine (3-HK), which has neurotoxic properties, and kynurenic acid (KYNA), which can prevent nerve cell degeneration. An elevated level of these two compounds can be detrimental to neurodegenerative disorders.

As part of the study, the researchers administered the animals with a drug that selectively inhibits tyyptophan-2,3-dioxygenase (TDO), an enzyme that regulates the relationship between 3-HK and KYNA. The chemical resulted in a high production of KYNA and also led to an increased lifespan of the insects.

Researcher Professor Flaviano Giorgini from the Department of Genetics at Leicester said, “There is a fine balance between levels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ metabolites that occurs in the kynurenine pathway. In disease, it shifts towards the ‘bad’, and by inhibiting TDO or kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO), we shift it back to ‘good’. For example, we find that if we inhibit either TDO or KMO in Huntington’s flies we reduce loss of neurons. In Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s flies we see extension of the shortened lifespan exhibited by these flies, and we also reverse the defects they have in movement. We have even used a drug like chemical to inhibit TDO and found that this also alleviates ‘symptoms’.”

Commenting on the findings, lead author of the study Dr. Carlo Breda from the University of Leicester said, “There is considerable interest in developing drugs that “turn down” these enzymes, so our hope is that our work could lead to drugs to treat these devastating disorders in the future.”

Path to recovery

Lives of millions of Americans get affected due to disorders that affect the nervous system. More than the impact of the disease, it is the perception that people have for the disease and its victims that inhibit proper and timely treatment.

Since 1949, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and participants across the United States have been observing the month of May as the “Mental Health Month” to promote awareness about the rising number of Americans falling prey to mental illnesses each year and to uphold the necessity of providing support and equal care to all.

If you or your loved one is struggling with any kind of mental illness, including Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, you may get in touch with the Sovereign Mental Health Services to know about various mental health centers. Chat online with one of our experts today or call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-954-0529 for further information about mental health facilities.

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