What We Can Learn from Worms
What began as research on the lowly worm has ended up amazing scientists and medical
professionals with a possible cure for neurodegenerative disease. An Israeli startup company, TyrNovo, is collaborating with Hebrew University researchers to develop a potential treatment for such diseases of the brain as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. Those diseases are all known to result from the aggregation of a toxic protein, which usually appears late in life. It seems that as the body ages, it is unable to regulate certain built-in mechanisms that had been protecting it from these proteins. The compound the team created, called NT219, slows down the aging process and thus is helpful in preventing such diseases.
Our Connection to Worms
Dr. Ehud Cohen, from the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, discovered some crucial similarities between humans and worms. I hope not too many! Apparently, both worms and humans share a problem regarding signal flow in the protective mechanism. After intensive research, he and his team found that by using insulin and IGF1, a hormone, they were able to reduce the signaling mechanism’s activity levels in worms. It is their conclusion that this manipulation will help in the prevention of neurodegenerative disease.
What About Mice?
I’m not sure how, but scientists are able to diagnose the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in mice. By inhibiting the same signal route in mice, they can also be protected from behavioral abnormalities and other phenomena related to neurodegenerative disease. However, since reducing that path in mice involves genetic manipulation, it is not a treatment that can be prescribed for use in humans. Even so, the Hebrew University was granted an ethical approval to continue testing NT219 on mice suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Hope for the Future
NT219 is the first compound ever created that has the ability of protection from diseases of the brain resulting from toxic protein aggregation. It is hoped that through this Israeli research, new insights will be discovered that will lead to further prevention and treatment of brain disease.