TUESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers report that they've developed a new way to find compounds that could become treatments for degenerative nerve disorders such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases.
The diseases cause proteins in nerve cells known as neurons to "misfold." In the new research, scientists say they've found molecules that play a role in the body's efforts to "chaperone" the molecules that fix the broken proteins.
The scientists studied one of the molecules and used rat neurons to show that it does indeed serve as a protective chaperone. Research in fruit flies showed the same thing.
Researchers say the study could lead to treatments that manipulate the chaperone molecules, leading to repair of the broken proteins.
"We found a creative way to identify new molecules that can activate the body's natural protein-folding machinery," senior author Dennis J. Thiele, professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said in a news release.
The research appeared in the Jan. 19 online issue of PLoS Biology.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on Parkinson's disease.
SOURCE: Duke University, news release, Jan. 19, 2010