Edward R. Biehl, a professor of chemistry at Southern Methodist University (SMU), joined forces with Santosh D'Mello, a biology at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), to test 45 chemical compounds.
Writing about their study in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine, the researchers revealed that four of the compounds tested were found to be the most potent protectors of neurons, the cells that are core components of the human brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.
The researchers said that the synthesized chemicals they identified, called "3-substituted indolin-2-one compounds", were derivatives of another compound called GW5074, which was found to prevent neurodegeneration in a previous study.
While GW5074 was found to be toxic to cells at slightly elevated doses, the team said that the newly identified compounds maintain the protective feature without toxicity, and thus held promise in halting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
"Sadly, neurodegenerative diseases are a challenge for our elderly population," D'Mello said.
"People are living longer and are more impacted by diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) than ever before - which means we need to aggressively look for drugs that treat diseases. But most exciting now are our efforts to stop the effects of brain disease right in its tracks. Although the newly discovered compounds have only been tested in cultured neurons and mice, they do offer hope," the researcher added.