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Study reveals brain cells' weakest links

Patients with degenerative conditions such as Huntington's disease and Alzheimer's disease could be helped by research that shows for the first time why their brain cells stop communicating properly.

Study reveals brain cells' weakest links

Scientists believe that the findings could help to develop treatments that slow the progress of a broad range of brain disorders such as Parkinson's and Huntingdon's disease.

The team at the University of Edinburgh, led by Professor Tom Gillingwater, analysed how connection points between brain cells break down during disease and identified six proteins that control the process.

When connection points in the brain, known as synapses, stop working - because of injury or disease - the chain of brain signalling breaks down and cannot be repaired.

The research (from The Roslin Institute and Centre for Integrative Physiology at the University) will help scientists identify drugs that target these six proteins, which may help slow the progress of neurological disorders.

At the moment there are no drugs that can effectively halt the progress of degenerative illnesses such as Huntington's disease or Alzheimer's disease. This study has identified potential key regulators of what goes wrong in a range of brain disorders. We now hope to identify drugs that prevent the breakdown of communication between brain cells and, as a result, halt the progress of these devastating neurodegenerative conditions.

Dr Thomas WishartThe Roslin Institute, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechology and Biological Sciences Research Council

The study, published in PLoS Genetics, was funded by the Wellcome Trust and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


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