Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Methylene Blue and Huntington's Disease

Common Lab Dye Found to Interrupt Formation of Huntington's Disease Proteins

Scientific American Article
A small molecule agent like methylene blue that has been grandfathered into approved use as a diagnostic tool in humans can be studied further as possible treatment for the neurodegenerative illness.  A compound already sitting on the shelves of biomedical laboratories and emergency room supply closets seems to interrupt the formation of neurodegenerative protein clumps found in Huntington’s disease, according to a preliminary animal study published August 7 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

This versatile agent, called methylene blue, gets a mention in medical literature as early as 1897 and was used to treat, at one time or another, ailments ranging from malaria to cyanide poisoning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has never formally approved it as a therapy for any illnesses. But that fact hasn’t stopped biomedical researchers from tinkering with the agent’s apparent ability to improve cognitive function. And although the new paper out today relies on a Huntington’s disease model in flies and mice, scientists are hopeful. "Because of existing knowledge of methylene blue and the fact that it’s not harmful to humans, I would hope that progress toward clinical trials could go relatively quickly," says Leslie Thompson, a neurobiologist at University of California–Irvine and lead author on the new study.

Huntington’s disease occurs when the C-A-G sequence of DNA base pairs repeat too often on the HTT gene, resulting in an abnormally long version of the huntingtin protein, that therefore folds incorrectly and forms clumps in the brain. The illness usually begins to affect people in their 30s and 40s, causing movement problems and early death. No drug is currently available to stop the disease from progressing.

methylene blue structure