Technology points to possible targets for epilepsy and Alzheimer's drugs

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Using new technology to measure protein levels in human tissue, scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center hope to identify new targets for drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy. They reported their progress today in San Diego at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

"Proteins are the real 'functional players' of genes," said Qiang Gu, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy. "Being able to measure levels of a large number of proteins simultaneously is a step forward in understanding more about the disease process and hopefully identifying new targets for drug treatment."

A project to map the human genome found that there are about 30,000 different genes. But little is known about the hundreds of thousands of proteins that are manufactured by genes. Genes exert their effects through these proteins. Humans and other organisms use the information in genes to "express" or manufacture proteins. A new science called proteomics is working to unravel when the proteins are made, how they interact with each other and what role they play in disease.

Using a new tool of proteomics, called antibody microarrays, Gu and colleagues are measuring levels of more than 500 different proteins in tissue samples. Their goal is to see if certain proteins are increased or decreased in patients with Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy which would suggest new targets for medications.

For the epilepsy study, the researchers focused on patients whose seizures couldn't be controlled with medication who had surgery to remove a small portion of their temporal lobes, the part of the brain where the seizures originated. Tissue samples from two of these patients were compared with tissue samples from subjects of the same age and sex.

Testing revealed that proteins involved in signal transduction or cell growth were increased in the patients with epilepsy. The scientists identif

Contact: Karen Richardson
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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