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Edward R. Biehl, co-discoverer of the HSB-13 compound  (Source: vvoice.vo.llnwd.net)
HSB-13 compound could halt diseases like Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's

Southern Methodist University (SMU) and University of Texas at Dallas researchers have found hope for those suffering from diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's through the discovery of a group of molecules which could help protect the brain.

Edward R. Biehl, study leader and a synthetic organic chemist at SMU, and Santosh R. D'Mello, co-author of the study and a biology professor at UT Dallas, have developed the compounds in an effort to halt the onset of nerve-degenerative diseases and relieve symptoms. 

Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and and Huntington's are neurodegenerative diseases in the central nervous system, and afflict more than five million Americans (mainly senior citizens). These diseases are caused by the immoderate loss of neurons in an area of the mid-brain, which leads to a decline in motor skills, such as walking and speaking, as well as memory loss and behavior problems. 

Previous treatments cannot halt or reverse these types of nerve-degenerative diseases. They only relieve symptoms, and sometimes even fail at that due to the severe side effects of these medications. 

But now, Biehl and D'Mello have worked together to develop compounds that could potentially protect the brain from nerve-degenerative diseases. They came upon this discovery when developing synthetic chemicals that contained a class of heterocyclic organic compounds. One particular compound in the heterocyclic class proved to be protective of neurons in tissue culture models. Furthermore, this same compound, named HSB-13, has also proven to be effective in fighting neurodegenerative diseases in animal models. 

"Our compounds protect against neurodegeneration in mice," said Biehl. "Given successful development of the compounds into drug therapies, they would serve as an effective treatment for patients with degenerative brain diseases."

HSB-13 not only decreased degeneration in the forebrain, but also corrected behavioral problems. It has also proved to be nontoxic while remaining "extremely potent."

Biotechnology and therapeutics company EncephRx, which is based in Dallas, is looking to create drug therapies based on this new class of compounds. The company was granted worldwide license to the "jointly owned compounds," and when the research is complete, EncephRx's pharmaceuticals made of these small compounds will be the first therapeutic tools capable of protecting brain cells and keeping them from dying. 

"Additional research needs to be done, but these compounds have the potential for stopping or slowing the relentless loss of brain cells in diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," said D'Mello. "The protective effect that they display in tissue culture and animal models of neurodegenerative disease provides strong evidence of their promise as drugs to treat neurodegenerative disorders."





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