AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Two Amarillo researchers said they have discovered promising compounds that could someday treat neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Paul Trippier said the TTUHSC research team grew human neurons from stem cells and then treated them with the synthesized compounds.
When cell death was induced, more neurons that had been treated with the new compounds survived than did those that were not treated.
Dr. Abraham Al-Ahmad and Dr. Paul Trippier said the discovery has been five years in the making and they hope it will someday help patients suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
"Alzheimer's disease nationwide is predicted to be 100 million sufferers in the U.S. by 2050," said Dr. Trippier. "So it is a significant burden on the population in the U.S. and I'm sure that number will be equal-handed in the panhandle as is the rest of the nation."
The two assistant professors are working to decrease the number of those suffering.
And in two different labs at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences center, they said they're making significant progress.
"We have managed to generate around 50 compounds, some of which are showing some very interesting activity to prevent the death of neurons in the brain," said Dr. Trippier. "We've managed to figure out the way they work and that seems to be able to kind of unclog the garbage disposal in cells."
Dr. Trippier said the cause of the neurodegeneration is that proteins kind of get stuck in cells in the neurons and then the cells explode.
"What we managed to do is develop some compounds that unclog the natural garbage disposal in these neurons and allow them to clear these proteins out so that they can go on living and hopefully become potential medicine somewhere down the line," said Dr. Trippier.
One of the benefits of this research is the convenience of the labs at the TTUHSC.
"We have chemistry lab up here where we make the compounds and then one floor below we have Abraham's lab to do the stem cell research as well," said Dr. Trippier. "So we can basically just take the compounds out the door, down the stairs and get them very very quickly."
Dr. Al-Ahmad echoed that statement, saying it makes the process faster.
"So here we have directly a source of cell of human brain neurons from patients so we can directly try to coordinate them and have a movement faster in the clinical trials," said Al-Ahmad.
Not only could this someday benefit patients, but it's currently benefiting their students.
The professors hope the research attracts more students to the TTUHSC in the future.
"My students not only learn chemistry and making compounds and then send them off," said Dr. Trippier. "They can just go downstairs and learn some of the techniques of stem cell technology. The student who primarily works under my lab is now a prospect to a research fellow in New York City. So it's a really big benefit for them."
Dr. Trippier said their research is still in the early stages, and the fact that it's being developed here, also increases their chances of starting a clinical trial here.
According to the pair, having a local clinical trial which would allow them to bring the latest research to patients in the Panhandle first.