Friday, June 15, 2007

Scientists try to reactivate silent genes

CHICAGO, June 14 (UPI) -- U.S. medical scientists are developing a therapy to reactivate silenced genes in patients suffering from stroke or neurodegenerative diseases.

Researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago and Cornell University note that during and after a stroke, certain cellular events take place that lead to the death of brain cells. Compounds that inhibit a group of enzymes called histone deacetylases can modulate gene expression, and in some cases produce cellular proteins that are actually neuroprotective -- are able to block cell death.

"For the first time, we show which one of the 11 histone deacetylase enzymes might be the best target to achieve cellular neuroprotection," said the study's lead investigator, University of Illinois Professor Alan Kozikowski. "This work gives us a good direction to follow in testing histone deacetylase inhibitors in animal models for diseases such as Parkinson's and Huntington's disease and even stroke."

Kozikowski said the study, in collaboration with Dr. Brett Langley at the Burke-Cornell Medical Research Institute in White Plains, N.Y., may lead to "other exciting" results.

"This is a new area of drug discovery for the 22nd century," Kozikowski said.

The study appears in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.