Groundbreaking research currently underway in Greece may offer new hope for those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, retinal degeneration or multiple sclerosis.
Talking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), University of Crete Medical School Pharmacology Professor Achilleas Gravanis said the search was focused on a new type of synthetic substances called microneurotrophins that protect nerve tissue from degenerative processes.
The research is taking place at the University of Crete School of Medicine, the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH) in Iraklio, where Gravanis is working as a researcher in the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Institute and the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens.
It is focused on the synthetic microneurotrophin BMN27, with the initial results of tests conducted on mice published in the scientific journal Neuropharmacology (Pediaditakis et al, 2016) in September.
Gravanis explained that naturally occurring neurotrophins were very large molecules that play a key role in the development and protection of brain matter from birth until the depths of old age, with neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties. Their large size, however, prevented their use as medication since they could not cross the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain from toxins in the environment.
“Our effort is focused on many small synthetic molecules that we call microneurotrophins that are smaller in size and, due to being quite lipophilic, are able to cross the blood brain barrier and effectively mimic the neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties of the endogenous large molecule neurotrophins. One of the substances we have synthesised is microneurotrophin BMN27,” he said.
The aim of the research, Gravanis said, was to use microneurotrophins to replace the action of endogenous neurotrophins, the production of which was significantly reduce in many neurodegenerative diseases, and slow or even reverse the degeneration of the affected neural tissues.