Scientists have developed a new peptide in the lab that has the capacity to both protect and restore function of microtubule network – the network that breaks down,hindering motor abilities and cognitive function,in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
The structure called “the microtubule network” is a crucial part of our nervous system. It acts as a transportation system within nerve cells,carrying essential proteins and enabling cell-to-cell communications. Professor Illana Gozes of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine has developed a new peptide in her lab,called NAP or Davunetide,that has the capacity to protect and restore microtubule function.
The peptide is a compound derived from the protein ADNP,which regulates more than 400 genes and is essential for brain formation,memory,and behaviour. Gozes and her team of researchers,including Dr Yan Jouroukhin and graduate student Regin Ostritsky of TAU,observed that in animal models with microtubule damage,NAP was able to maintain or revive the transport of proteins and other materials in cells,ameliorating symptoms associated with neurodegeneration.
These findings,which were reported in the journal Neurobiology of Disease,indicate that NAP could be an effective tool in fighting some of the most debilitating effects of neurodegenerative diseases.
Researchers used two different animal models with microtubule damage. The first group was made up of normal mice whose microtubule system was broken down through the use of a compound. The second group were genetically-engineered mouse models of ALS,in which the microtubule system was chronically damaged. In both groups,half the mice were given a single NAP injection,while the control half were not.
To determine the impact of NAP on nerve cell communications,the researchers administered the chemical element manganese to all animal models and tracked its movement through the brain using an MRI. In the mice treated with NAP,researchers observed that the manganese was able to travel through the brain normally the microtubule system had been protected from damage or restored to normal use,according to a statement by American Friends of Tel Aviv University in US.
Those mice that did not receive the peptide experienced the usual breakdown or continued dysfunction of the microtubule system. Gozes noted that more research must be conducted to discover how to optimise the use of NAP as a treatment,including which patients can benefit most from the intervention.