A Turkish scientist from the US has given hope to ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients after successfully reviving dead brain cells in animals.
Northwestern University Associate Professor Pembe Hande Ozdinler, who works at the Feinberg School of Medicine in the US state of Illinois, managed to revive motor neurons 60 days after initiation of the treatment.
In the study, the scientist and her team used a chemical substance called NU-9, which they created on their own and used to heal dying motor neurons.
Ozdinler told Turkish media outlet Yenicag Gazetesi: “Upper motor neurons are responsible for initiating and transmitting movements. Damage to these occurs in the early stages of ALS. Making the upper motor neurons healthy is very important for ALS and other motor neuron diseases.
“For now, there is no treatment to improve the condition of these patients. But in our work with Northwestern University chemistry professor Richard Silverman, we found a substance that can heal dying brain neurons.”
The scientist continued: “This substance, which we call NU-9, had positive results in animals. Both the mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouse) and the endoplasmic reticulum (the cell’s protein producer) began to recover, and thus, the neurons were improved.
“In the upper motor neurons, the cell body expanded and the holes, which were extensions of the nerve cells, began to disappear. After 60 days of the NU-9 treatment, the damaged neurons began to resemble healthy ones.”
The researcher hopes the newly found substance will be used to produce drugs that will cure patients with ALS, PLS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cerebral haemorrhages, as it has proven to be successful in animal experiments.
She said: “ALS disease in particular is a very difficult disease. Patients really slowly lose all their human abilities.”
Ozdinler, who believes the treatment could be used within the next 10 years, said: “Creating the invention and bringing the invention to the clinical stage is the longest process. We have now completed it.”
She revealed that her motivation to turn to neurology occurred after she lost her brother, 23-year-old art student Omer Tunc Ozdinler, to a sudden cerebral haemorrhage in 1996.
Ozdinler said: “My family was devastated. I knew very little about the brain. I went to the USA for a PhD, but if my brother had not passed away, maybe I would have studied plant biotechnology. Although I was in the third year of my doctorate, I changed course and turned to neuroscience.
“I read a lot. I went to the neurosurgery department at Harvard University. I became a professor at Harvard. It was like if I learned the brain, I would revive my brother or help him somehow.”
The woman now hopes to clinically test the drug as soon as possible and expects the trials to be done in two or three years, after which it could be prescribed to patients if effective.