Poisonous fuel in rat brains reveals potential for brand new dementia therapies

Toxic gas in rat brains shows potential for new dementia treatments

Postnatal rat brain atlas cerebellum from CIVM. Image credit: Neurolex

One possible treatment for dementia and epilepsy could be to reduce the amount of a toxic gas in the brain. This was discovered in a new study using rat brain cells.

Research published today in Scientific Reports shows that treatments to reduce the levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the brain can help ward off damage caused by the gas. When testing rat brain cells, the team of scientists from the University of Reading, University of Leeds, and John Hopkins University in the United States found that H2S is involved in blocking an important brain for brain cells that helps the brain communicate effectively.

Dr. Mark Dallas, Associate Professor of Cellular Neuroscience at the University of Reading, said:

"This is exciting as it gives us new insights into the role of hydrogen sulfide in various brain diseases such as dementia and epilepsy. Interest in the effects of hydrogen sulfide on the brain has increased, and this study shows the importance of the effects of its makeup on the proper functioning of the brain can be.

"We have seen that hydrogen sulfide interferes with the normal functioning of potassium channels. These channels regulate electrical activity through the connections between brain cells, and when those channels are blocked from functioning properly, we see hyperexcitable brain cells that we believe are." they lead to nerve cells death.

"The implication for possible treatments is particularly exciting as the search for drugs that target hydrogen sulfide production in our brains can have a number of disease benefits and there are clear links between hydrogen sulfide build-up and other warning signs of diseases like Alzheimer's." "

In the study, cells taken from rat brains were charged with an H2S donor molecule, and then the electrical signals from the brain cells were monitored. The resulting exposure to H2S increased the level of activity in brain cells, and research found that the effect was specifically controlled by the potassium channel tested.

The team was also able to identify which part of the potassium channel allowed this effect of H2S. Using a mutated form of the potassium channel previously shown to protect nerve cells from a variety of toxic stimuli, including amyloid beta, they found that the mutation was resistant to the effects of H2S seen in natural cells.

The specific mutated channel is now of particular interest in Alzheimer's disease research given its protective benefits against amyloid beta, which is also implicated in dementia.

Dr. Moza Al-Owais, a research fellow at the University of Leeds, said:

"This exciting study shows the growing evidence that gas transmitters play an important role as signaling molecules in the regulation of the physiological processes underlying Alzheimer's disease. These are relatively little known and open new avenues for study and drug discovery."

Hydrogen sulfide helps maintain the drive to breathe

More information:
Scientific reports (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-87646-5

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University of Reading

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