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Discovery at the Feinstein suggests new treatment approach for inflammatory conditions

MANHASSET, NY -- Scientists at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have made a discovery that may change the way inflammatory conditions are treated. The researchers looked at certain nerve cell receptors in the brain and found they control inflammation in the body. The discovery presents a potential new approach for treating inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. The study, by Valentin Pavlov, PhD, Kevin Tracey, MD, and colleagues, was published in the March 28 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The brain chemical acetylcholine binds to muscarinic receptors on nerve cells in the brain, causing the brain to send messages to the body that slow the inflammatory response. The receptors can be stimulated though a number of mechanisms, including by use of drugs that mimic the effect of acetylcholine, by blocking an enzyme that naturally destroys acetylcholine, or by provoking the nerve cells to release more acetylcholine. The researchers also tested muscarinic receptors in other parts of the body, but unlike the central receptors in the brain, they do not play an essential role in controlling the inflammatory response.

"Medications in a class of drugs called centrally acting cholinergic agents are already available on the U.S. market, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Tracey, who is also Director and Chief Executive Officer of The Feinstein. "Our next step will be to conduct a clinical trial with one of these drugs as an anti-inflammatory agent to evaluate its effect on inflammatory measures in healthy people."

The research team plans to test galantamine, a drug whose active ingredient was first extracted from a plant and is now synthesized in the laboratory, which works primarily by blocking the enzyme that destroys acetylcholine. The drug allows the nerve cells in the brain to communicate their anti-inflammatory
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Contact: Christina Verni
cverni@nshs.edu
516-562-1232
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System
3-Apr-2006


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