Researchers develop a protein to protect and restore nerve cell communications

June 13, 2013, Tel Aviv University

A peptide to protect brain function
(Medical Xpress)—A 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. But in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, ALS, and Parkinson's, this network breaks down, hindering motor abilities and cognitive function.

Now Prof. 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 both 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 behavior.

Prof. 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 .

Prof. Gozes is the director of TAU's Adams Super Center for Brain Studies and holds the Lily and Avraham Gildor Chair for the Investigation of .

Securing passage through the brain

In their investigation, the 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. Those mice that did not receive the peptide experienced the usual breakdown or continued dysfunction of the microtubule system.

These findings were corroborated by a subsequent study conducted in the UK, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, which found that NAP was able to ameliorate damage in fruit fly models of microtubule deficiency, repairing nerve cell dysfunction.

Slowing down cognitive dysfunction

NAP appears to have widespread potential in terms of neuroprotection, says Prof. Gozes, who was recently awarded the Meitner-Humblodt Research Award for her lifelong contribution to the field of brain sciences.

Previous studies on the peptide, conducted through a collaboration between Allon Therapeutics and Ramot, TAU's technology transfer arm, have shown that patients suffering from cognitive dysfunction—a precursor to Alzheimer's Disease—showed significant improvements in their cognitive scores when treated with NAP. Additional studies have also shown that NAP has a positive impact on rectifying microtubule deficiencies in schizophrenia patients.

Prof. Gozes notes that more research must be conducted to discover how to optimize the use of NAP as a treatment, including which patients can benefit most from the intervention.

Explore further: Appealing the death sentence for brain cells

Related Stories

Appealing the death sentence for brain cells

May 29, 2008
A new drug candidate discovered by Tel Aviv University researcher Prof. Illana Gozes may lead to an effective treatment against the debilitative Alzheimer's disease. This compound could also treat a number of diseases where ...

Cancer drug improves memory in mouse model of Alzheimer's disease

March 13, 2012
A compound that previously progressed to Phase II clinical trials for cancer treatment slows neurological damage and improves brain function in an animal model of Alzheimer's disease, according to a study in the March 14 ...

Want to boost your memory and mood? Take a nap, but keep it short

May 17, 2013
We're told to have power naps to keep us safe on the road and improve our alertness if we've had insufficient sleep. They even help our surgeons stay awake during long shifts. But siestas and nana naps can also leave us feeling ...

Preventing 'traffic jams' in brain cells

May 28, 2013
Imagine if you could open up your brain and look inside. What you would see is a network of nerve cells called neurons, each with its own internal highway system for transporting essential materials between different parts ...

Study suggests another avenue for detecting Alzheimer's disease

April 1, 2011
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have determined that a well-known chemical process called acetylation has a previously unrecognized association with one of the biological processes associated ...

New study gives hope for new class of Alzheimer's disease drugs

October 18, 2010
(PhysOrg.com) -- Finding a drug that can cross the blood-brain barrier is the bane of drug development for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders of the brain. A new Penn study, published this week in the ...

Recommended for you

Ritalin drives greater connection between brain areas key to memory, attention

December 13, 2018
There's a reason so many children are prescribed methylphenidate, better known by the trade name Ritalin: it helps kids quell attention and hyperactivity problems and sit still enough to focus on a school lesson.

Attention, please! Anticipation of touch takes focus, executive skills

December 12, 2018
Anticipation is often viewed as an emotional experience, an eager wait for something to happen.

Study highlights potential benefits of continuous EEG monitoring for infant patients

December 12, 2018
A recent retrospective study evaluating continuous electroencephalography (cEEG) of children in intensive care units (ICUs) found a higher than anticipated number of seizures. The work also identified several conditions closely ...

The importins of anxiety

December 11, 2018
According to some estimates, up to one in three people around the world may experience severe anxiety in their lifetime. In a study described today in Cell Reports, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have revealed ...

How returning to a prior context briefly heightens memory recall

December 11, 2018
Whether it's the pleasant experience of returning to one's childhood home over the holidays or the unease of revisiting a site that proved unpleasant, we often find that when we return to a context where an episode first ...

Neurons in the brain work as a team to guide movement of arms, hands

December 11, 2018
The apparent simplicity of picking up a cup of coffee or turning a doorknob belies the complex sequence of calculations and processes that the brain must undergo to identify the location of an item in space, move the arm ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.