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[2012/03/12] Dr. Tzu-Hao Cheng's research team discovered the molecular mechanism for preventing the onset of neurodegenerative diseases.

[101/03/12]

Dr. Tzu-Hao Cheng's research team discovered the molecular mechanism for preventing the onset of neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr. Tzu-Hao Cheng, an associate professor of the Institute of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, lead his research team, in collaboration with Dr. Stanley N. Cohen of Stanford University, to investigate neurodegenerative diseases and found a molecular mechanism that may delay the onsets of these diseases. On February 22nd, 2012, the group revealed their results in a press conference held in National Yang-Ming University. His group presented that when transcription elongation factor Spt4 is suppressed, the expression level of disease-causing mutant gene is reduced and can prevent neuronal cell death. As a result, this is likely to delay the onset of diseases. A collection of these findings has been published in the world renowned journal: Cell.

These neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington's Disease (HD) and Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA) are inherited autosomal dominant diseases. Afflicted patients gradually lose their mobility, cognition, and eventually die as the disease progresses. The pathogenesis of these diseases is due to expression of mutant genes that causes neuron cell death. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the gene expression is not fully understood, very little progress has been made in a therapeutic approach aiming specifically to reduce the mutant gene expression.

Chai-Rung Liu, a Ph.D. graduate student of Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, is the first author of this article. He discovered that transcription elongation factor Spt4, through a yeast genetic assay system, is specifically required for mutant gene expression. Subsequently, using mammalian neurons, Spt4 down-regulation cells showed reduced mutant gene expression and improved cell survival. These results indicate that Spt4 could be a therapeutic target for neurodegenerative diseases.

"Neurodegeneration is a process similar to a speeding car down a steep hill with no brakes; our finding is like a way to reduce the speed and prevent its tragedy." said Dr. Cheng. The research is currently directed towards drug development and animal model tests for Spt4 effects on the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Cheng's finding has brought new hope to hundreds of thousands or maybe even millions of neurodegenerative disease patients worldwide.

Dr. Tzu-Hao Cheng (left) and his PhD. Student Chia-Rung Liu (right).

Dr. Tzu-Hao Cheng (left) and his PhD. Student Chia-Rung Liu (right).


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