Researchers explore new way to prevent cell damage in neurodegenerative diseases

Market Expertz   |     October 07, 2019


A new study conducted in human cells and mice has discovered the underlying mechanism of brain cell damage in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s, which can cause the death of neurons or nerve cells. Senior study author Dr. Daria Mochly-Rosen, Professor, Chemical and Systems Biology, Stanford University School Of Medicine, California, says that they have identified the new approach that could reduce nerve cell death in several diseases. The mechanism includes microglia and astrocytes, which are two cells that usually protect neurons or nerve cells. The team’s findings have been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Microglia and astrocytes are glial cells, a type of cell that was once regarded as the ‘glue of the nervous system,’ although they have also been found to play a vital role in brain development and function. These cells also release various chemicals, including growth factors and substances that are essential for metabolism. On the other hand, microglia looks for signs of tissue injury and eliminates agents that could potentially cause it, such as disease pathogens and fragments or debris from neurons. The authors have also shed light on another, lesser-known characteristics of neurodegenerative diseases, wherein the glial cells are activated to a state of increased secretion of pro-inflammatory factors. This activation entails a series of processes that also damage neurons; the researchers have termed this mechanism as “neuroinflammation.” The scientists suppose that neuroinflammation by glial cells can be triggered due to the presence of fragments from neurons. For instance, animal studies showed that after brain injury, astrocytes are activated by microglia into a state called A1 and can also lead to further damage, eventually killing the neurons.

Nonetheless, there was uncertainty about the trigger for the mechanism, and the compounds’ ability to stop astrocytes from transitioning into hyperactive A1 state remained unclear. The researchers treated mice with P110, which was found to reduce microglia and astrocyte activity and inflammation in their brains. The researchers are trying to decipher how damaged mitochondria that are released from glial cells can kill neurons.

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