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A New Therapeutic Approach Treats Alzheimer's Disease With Photoactive Chemicals

First Posted: Nov 16, 2015 09:42 AM EST
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Photoactive chemicals may provide a therapeutic strategy in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, according to a recent study.

When testing the method out on fruit flies, researchers found that symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in fruit flies such as damage on synapse and muscle, neuronal apoptosis, degradation in motility and decreased longevity were alleviated. Light treatments also helped reduce the need for medication--resulting in fewer side-effects, researchers say.

During the study, researchers conducted research to suppress an abnormal assembly of beta-amyloids--a protein commonly found in the brain--by using photo-excited porphyrins.

For cancer treatments, researchers used photodynamic therapies in which they injected cancer patients so their lesions lit up. However, at this time, such therapies have never been employed to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

In the case of Alzheimer's disease, beta-amyloid proteins leave deposits in the brain that are abnormally folded in such a way that they start inducing the degradation of brain function. However, if they could be suppressed at an early stage, the formation of amyloid deposits would stop--halting or even preventing the progress of the neurodegenerative disease, researchers say.

With the help of blue LED lights and a porphyrin inducer, researchers prevented the buildup of the proteins. "By absorbing light energy, a photosensitizer such as porphyrin reaches the excitation state. Active oxygen is created as the porphyrin returns to its ground state. The active oxygen oxidizes a beta-amyloid monomer, and by combining with it, disturbs its assembly," the study states.

"This work has significance as it was the first case to use light and photosensitizers to stop deposits of beta-amyloids," said study author Chan Beum Park of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), in a news release. "We plan to carry the research further by testing compatibility with other organic and inorganic photosensitizers and by changing the subject of photodynamic therapy to vertebrate such as mice."

The article "Photo-excited Porphyrins as a Strong Suppressor of ß-Amyloid Aggregation and Synaptic Toxicity" is published in the September 21th issue of Angewandte Chemie.

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