In a breakthrough that will spell good news for patients with Alzheimer's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease and other brain disorders, researchers say, Adenosine, a small molecule that plays important roles in controlling the heartbeat and normal sleep may also prove useful in treating these disorders of the brain and nervous system.
When tested on rat brain cells in the laboratory, the molecule, adenosine, mimicked the beneficial effects of naturally occurring chemicals known as nerve growth factors.
Nerve growth factors can prevent cell death in the brain, but, because of their size, are difficult to administer to patients as a treatment. Larger size molecules are not able to cross the barrier that prevents many drugs from entering the brain.
Small molecules, on the other hand, can more easily enter the brain.Thus adenosine may be a potential treatment for brain ailments, according to investigators. In a new study, published in the online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on March 6th, researchers report that adenosine did have a beneficial effect on the cultured brain cells.
While it is not clear if the molecule would have the same effect under more complex circumstances found in the body, researchers are hopeful that they can deliver adenosine to the brain, where it could protect cells from damage. One of study's authors, Dr. Moses V. Chao, of the New York University School of Medicine, said the strategy was a new one for fighting disease.
With this new step forward in the vastly unexplored and unclear frontier of the brain and the nervous system, many more cures and breakthroughs can be expected to follow.