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posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 21, @04:26PM   Printer-friendly

Targeting 'undruggable' proteins promises new approach for treating neurodegenerative diseases:

Researchers led by Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have introduced a pioneering approach aimed at combating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

In a new study, researchers discovered a new way to enhance the body's antioxidant response, which is crucial for cellular protection against the oxidative stress implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases.

[...] Alzheimer's disease, characterized by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles; Parkinson's disease, known for its loss of dopaminergic neurons and presence of Lewy bodies; and ALS, involving the degeneration of motor neurons, all share a common thread of oxidative stress contributing to disease pathology.

The study focuses on disrupting the Keap1/Nrf2 protein-protein interaction (PPI), which plays a role in the body's antioxidant response. By preventing the degradation of Nrf2 through selective inhibition of its interaction with Keap1, the research holds promise for mitigating the cellular damage that underlies these debilitating conditions.

"We established Nrf2 as a principal target for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases over the past two decades, but this novel approach for activating the pathway holds great promise to develop disease-modifying therapies," Jeffrey Johnson said.

The research team embarked on addressing one of the most challenging aspects of neurodegenerative disease treatment: the precise targeting of PPIs within the cell. Traditional methods, including small molecule inhibitors and peptide-based therapies, have fallen short due to lack of specificity, stability and cellular uptake.

The study introduces an innovative solution: protein-like polymers, or PLPs, are high-density brush macromolecular architectures synthesized via the ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) of norbornenyl-peptide-based monomers. These globular, proteomimetic structures display bioactive peptide side chains that can penetrate cell membranes, exhibit remarkable stability and resist proteolysis.

This targeted approach to inhibit the Keap1/Nrf2 PPI represents a significant leap forward. By preventing Keap1 from marking Nrf2 for degradation, Nrf2 accumulates in the nucleus, activating the Antioxidant Response Element (ARE) and driving the expression of detoxifying and antioxidant genes. This mechanism effectively enhances the cellular antioxidant response, providing a potent therapeutic strategy against the oxidative stress implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases.

PLPs [ protein-like polymers], developed by Gianneschi's team, could represent a significant breakthrough in halting or reversing damage offering hope for improved treatments and outcomes.

Focusing on the challenge of activating processes crucial for the body's antioxidant response, the team's research offers a novel solution. The team provides a robust, selective method enabling enhanced cellular protection and offering a promising therapeutic strategy for a range of diseases including neurodegenerative conditions.

"Through modern polymer chemistry, we can begin to think about mimicking complex proteins," Gianneschi said. "The promise lies in the development of a new modality for the design of therapeutics. This could be a way to address diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's among others where traditional approaches have struggled."

This approach not only represents a significant advance in targeting transcription factors and disordered proteins, but also showcases the PLP technology's versatility and potential to revolutionize the development of therapeutics. The technology's modularity and efficacy in inhibiting the Keap1/Nrf2 interaction underscore its potential for impact as a therapeutic, but also as a tool for studying the biochemistry of these processes.

More information: Kendal P. Carrow et al, Inhibiting the Keap1/Nrf2 Protein‐Protein Interaction with Protein‐Like Polymers, Advanced Materials (2024). DOI: 10.1002/adma.202311467

Journal information:Advanced Materials


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 21, @08:44PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 21, @08:44PM (#1345536)

    You're harshing my high, man!

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