Irish team find molecule can block diseases

(17/02/2015) Scientists in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) have made a breakthrough which could help to block certain inflammatory diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.

The discovery centres on a molecule called MCC950, which can suppress the ‘NLRP3 inflammasome’ – an activator of the key process in inflammatory diseases.

Over the last 10 years, scientists have identified inflammasomes as potential therapeutic targets, and according to TCD, this discovery about MCC950′s abilities to suppress the NLRP3 inflammasome ‘represents a hugely significant development in the effort to find treatments for inflammatory diseases’.

The TCD team pointed out that currently, therapies available to treat these conditions are either largely ineffective or have big limitations.

The team also pointed out that the findings confirm that inflammatory conditions share a common process, even if the parts of the body becoming inflamed are different.

“Drugs like aspirin or steroids can work in several diseases, but can have side-effects or be ineffective. What we have found is a potentially transformative medicine, which targets what appears to be the common disease-causing process in a myriad of inflammatory diseases,” explained Prof Luke O’Neill of TCD, who is the joint senior scientist behind this discovery.

Meanwhile, according to the study’s co-senior author, Prof Matt Cooper, of the University of Queensland in Australia, MCC950 ‘is able to be given orally and will be cheaper to produce than current protein-based treatments, which are given daily, weekly or monthly by injection’.

“Importantly, it will also have a shorter duration in the body, allowing clinicians to stop the anti-inflammatory action of the drug if the patient ever needed to switch their immune response back to 100% in order to clear an infection,” he noted.

The scientists said that so far, their findings have shown major promise for blocking MS in a model of that disease, as well as sepsis – a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection.

“However, the target for MCC950 is strongly implicated in diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, gout, Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, which means it has the potential to treat all of these conditions,” TCD pointed out.

Prof O’Neill added that the team is ‘really excited about MCC950′.

“We believe this has real potential to benefit patients suffering from several highly debilitating diseases, where there is currently a dire need for new medicines.”

The study was a major collaboration between six international institutions, but was led by TCD and the University of Queensland. Details of these findings are published in the journal, Nature Medicine.


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