Prompting Neurons to Protect Themselves

MONDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A team of American and Japanese scientists has found a way to induce nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to release natural antioxidants that protect the cells from the damage that stress and free radicals can cause.

The finding may help in the development of new treatments for stroke, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and other neurodegenerative disorders, the researchers said.

"This is the first reported evidence that this protective response can be activated directly in nerve cells to release antioxidants and counter oxidative stress," senior author Dr. Stuart Lipton, director of the Del E. Webb Center for Neurosciences and Aging at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, Calif., said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues found that compounds called NEurite outgrowth-Promoting Prostaglandins (NEPPs) can activate a pathway in nerve cells that's designed to protect the cells against oxidative and nitrosative stress and excitotoxicity (overstimulatoin of nerve cells).

This pathway is called Keap1/NrF2. It regulates production of natural antioxidants that can protect nerve cells against oxidative stress resulting from ischemic stroke and neurodegenerative diseases.

"These findings provide support for further investigation of NEPP drugs to potentially treat ischemic stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders," Lipton said.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Burnham Institute for Medical Research, news release, Jan. 9, 2006

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