New Way to Block Cell Death

Enzyme c-jun-N-terminal kinase is identified for heart attack, stroke and parkinson's disease research

(RxWiki News) Scientists at the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have found a way to block stress-related cell death. Ultimately the discovery could lead to the development of new drugs for conditions including heart attacks, strokes and Parkinson's disease.

Researchers demonstrated they could disrupt a specific interaction of a critical enzyme that would prevent cell death without hurting other important enzyme functions. The study was recently published in the journal ACS Chemical Biology.

"Numerous individuals could benefit with the creation of new drugs."

The enzyme identified is c-jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK), which is implicated in many of the body's responses to stress such as oxidative stress, protein misfolding, and metabolic disorder. JNK also plays a critical role in nerve cell survival and has become a target for drugs to treat neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

JNK was previously found to migrate to the mitochondria, the part of the cell that generates chemical energy and that is involved in cell growth and death.

The migration combined with activation of the JNK is linked to numerous serious heath problems including liver damage, stroke and heart attack. Researchers created a small peptide that intervenes during JNK migration and can block the harmful effects of cell death.

That migration, coupled with JNK activation, is associated with a number of serious health issues, including apoptosis or programmed cell death, liver damage, neuronal cell death, stroke and heart attack.

The peptide is not a drug, but an investigative tool. Scientists hope to produce a small molecule that can mimic the peptide, which could them the ability to selectively inhibit JNK mitochondrial interaction.

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Review Date: 
June 4, 2011