Thursday, January 04, 2007

Uric acid may harbour cure for central nervous system diseases

Washington, Jan. 4 (ANI): Researchers at Rutgers University, New Jersey, have for the first time discovered that uric acid can play a crucial role in the treatment of spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.

The latest findings are significant for doctors because they give additional value to the role of uric acid, which is commonly associated with the excruciatingly painful joint disease known as gout.

"In spinal cord injury, as well as stroke, two kinds of damage can occur," said Bonnie Firestein, an associate professor of cell biology and neuroscience at the university.

"First there is the physical damage, but this is followed by secondary chemical damage to neurons [nerve cells] by compounds released in response to the trauma. We have found that uric acid can promote an early intervention step in combating this chemical damage through its action on astroglial cells," she added.

Astroglial cells or astrocytes are specialized cells that support neuron function with nutrients and protective buffering.

Firestein said that their findings are interesting because many researchers had successfully observed uric acid's effects on the health of neurons, but the mechanics of how it confers protection was a mystery.

"It is interesting to note that people with gout never seem to develop multiple sclerosis," Firestein said.

"In animal models of multiple sclerosis, the addition of uric acid reduces symptoms and improves prognosis. The same is true for one type of Parkinson's disease tested," she added.

The study shows that uric acid can stimulate astroglial cells to produce transporter proteins that carry harmful compounds away from neurons in jeopardy of chemical damage, opening the door to identifying a unique drug target for new therapies.

The study has been published in the online edition of the journal Glia. (ANI)