Enhancing the brain’s own clean-up crews could be a strategy for handling the toxic proteins driving several neurodegenerative diseases, new research suggests.
Astrocytes, an abundant supportive cell type in the brain, are better than neurons at disposing of mutant huntingtin, the toxic protein that drives Huntington’s disease pathology, Xiao-Jiang Li and colleagues report in this week’s PNAS.
One reason why astrocytes are better at toxic protein defense than neurons is: they have less of an inhibitory protein called HspBP1. The scientists show that using CRISPR/Cas9 to “knock down” HspBP1 can help neurons get rid of mutant huntingtin and reduce early pathological signs.
The word “chaperone” refers to an adult who keeps teenagers from acting up at a dance or overnight trip. It also describes a type of protein that can guard the brain against its own troublemakers: misfolded proteins that are involved in several neurodegenerative diseases.
Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine led by Shihua Li, MD, and Xiao-Jiang Li, MD, PhDÂ have demonstrated that as animals age, their brains are more vulnerable to misfolded proteins, partly because of a decline in chaperone activity.
The researchers were studying a model of spinocerebellar ataxia, but the findings have implications for understanding other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Ray Ban outlet Huntington’s. They also identified targets for potential therapies: bolstering levels of either a particular chaperone or a growth factor in brain cells can protect against the toxic effects of misfolded proteins.
The results were published recently in the journalÂ Neuron. Read more