Old drug, new usage beneficial for nervous system diseases

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WASHINGTON: An old drug has provided promising new avenues for the treatment of certain nervous system diseases, a new research has claimed. According to the University of Liverpool-led study, the drug-molecule ebselen can correct many of the toxic characteristics of a protein that causes some cases of hereditary motor neuron disease (MND).
MND is an incurable, progressive disease that attacks the nerves controlling movement so muscles no longer work. MND affects about 5000 people in the UK at any one time and present treatment options have only a modest effect in improving the patient’s quality of life. Inherited MND is a rare form of the disease (5-10 percent of total cases) that runs in families. Around 20 percent of hereditary MND cases are caused by mutations in a gene which codes for a protein called SOD1. When the SOD1 gene is mutated, the protein assembly process malfunctions and steps are missed out. This makes the SOD1 protein structurally unstable leading to the formation of protein ‘clumps’ in the motor neurons, causing them to die. Scientists found that ebselen, a drug which was discovered in the 1980s and has been investigated as a potential treatment for a variety of nervous system disorders, can effectively restore several important steps in the SOD1 assembly process including folding, dimerisation, and zinc binding.
Researcher Gareth Wright said, “This discovery has the potential to prevent the accumulation of SOD1 into the large aggregates we see within the motor neurons of affected individuals. If we can stop that, we might be able to stop the neurons dying.” Another researcher Samar Hasnain added, “The next step is to test ebselen in settings more accurately resembling human neuronal cells and optimising it so that it can become useful as a drug for motor neuron disease.” The study appears in the journal Nature Communications.