Researchers Identify Final Step Killing Damaged Neurons in Self-destructive Process

Researchers Identify Final Step Killing Damaged Neurons in Self-destructive Process
Researchers have identified the factor at the end of a molecular chain of events killing nerve cells which have been exposed to damage from disease processes such as stroke and possibly Alzheimer's or a wide variety of other injuries. The study, “A nuclease that mediates cell death induced by DNA damage and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1,” published in the journal Science, may pave the way for the development of treatments able to slow or stop the process, saving neurons from death. The findings built on the previous work of two research groups at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who spent years mapping a molecular self-destruction program that kills nerve cells after injuries as disparate as stroke and neurodegeneration. The two teams, led by Dr. Ted Dawson, MD, PhD, and director of the Institute for Cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins, and Valina Dawson, PhD, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins, termed the program parthanatos, a moniker inspired by Thanatos — the personification of death in Greek mythology — and the enzyme PARP, which is a key component of the process. "I can't overemphasize what an important form of cell death it is; it plays a role in almost all forms of cellular injury," Dawson said in a news release. Up until now, the two teams had identified most players and the sequences of events leading to the death of neurons. But they did not know which molecule was responsible for the final blow — the degradation of a cell’s DN
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