NEW ORLEANS, La., Aug. 24 - A new drug that may prevent the death of brain cells endangered by Alzheimer's disease, head injury, stroke or epilepsy was described here today by Nicolas G. Bazan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at Louisiana State University. He presented his findings at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Bazan said he has found the gene responsible for producing an inflammatory protein known to precede brain cell death in conditions of injury or disease-and discovered how to switch it off. Both gene and protein are called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Injury or disease triggers a chain reaction that signals the gene to produce the chemical messenger RNA, which in turn instructs the gene to produce the killer protein. His new drug prevents the production of COX-2 and stops the signaling process before the genes can be affected.
Bazan's discovery of a novel mechanism to inhibit the expression of pathological genes led to the development, in collaboration with organic chemists, of a drug that renders these genes inactive in animal models of neurodegenerative disease. His laboratory will now enter the pre-clinical phase of research.
Bazan's laboratory also studies processes that could lead to the regeneration of diseased and damaged neural pathways. This work focuses on the design of small molecules capable of passing through the blood brain barrier. "The combination of a fundamental understanding of neurobiological processes, coupled with the actual power of genetic manipulations, is creating an environment of unparalleled excitement and unlimited possibilities," Bazan said.
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