Lecture explores ‘window of opportunity’ for preventing brain degeneration

Posted by pt91 at Oct 01, 2012 12:07 PM |
Insights into degenerative brain diseases at University of Leicester Frank May Prize lecture on 3 October

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 01 October 2012

The lecture is free of charge and open to all, 5.30pm in The Frank and Katherine May Lecture Theatre, Henry Wellcome Building, University of Leicester

For a range of incurable neurodegenerative diseases there is a small timeframe in which the devastating loss of brain function could potentially be treated or prevented.

Professor Giovanna Mallucci is to discuss this ‘window of opportunity’ as the focus of her research at the 2012 Frank May Prize Lecture, entitled ‘Degenerating Brains: from Molecules to Medicines’ on 3 October at the University of Leicester.

Neurodegenerative diseases, which include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, and the rarer prion disorders, have enormous clinical and economic impact worldwide. This is in large part because there are no effective treatments.

Professor Mallucci , who is Programme Leader at the MRC Toxicology Unit and Honorary Professor in the Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of Leicester, said, “While the different neurodegenerative diseases vary in the symptoms they produce, they all have in common irreversible and irreplaceable loss of brain nerve cells, (neurons).

“Before neuron loss happens, the vital connections between neurons (synapses) are lost, which is reversible, and therefore provides a potential window for therapeutic intervention. Only when synapse loss reaches a critical low, death of the neuron will follow and this is irreversible.

“What intrigued me so much about brain degeneration was that it was incurable. Neurons are vitally important to brain function – without them, we wouldn’t have any thoughts, actions, perceptions or consciousness. At Leicester, we have uncovered a basic mechanism that leads to the loss of neurons in a neurodegenerative disease and that is the focus of our research.

“Earlier this year, we identified a pathway to manipulate this mechanism and prevent brain cell death that could potentially lead to treatments in a range of neurodegenerative diseases.

“In this lecture I will discuss first, work that my colleagues in Leicester and I have done into the molecules and mechanisms by which synapses and then neurons are lost, and second how this work has opened up new and exciting opportunities for the development of medicines with which these devastating and important diseases might finally be overcome.”

‘Degenerating Brains: from Molecules to Medicines’ will be held on 3 October at 5.30 pm in The Frank and Katherine May Lecture Theatre, Henry Wellcome Building, University of Leicester. Please confirm your attendance to Danielle Benyon-Payne, T: 0116 252 2962 or E: dmrbp1@le.ac.uk.

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