Claude Wischik spoke about preventing aggregation of tau protein, which is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials of their aggregation-inhibiting drug Rember are promising: it seems to slow the down the rate of cognitive decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Andrei Seluanov talked about naked mole rats, those odd-looking miracle rodents that live for 30 years and don’t seem to ever get cancer (this talk was unrelated to the session topic). Their work provides some clues to this extraordinary cancer-resistance: naked mole rat fibroblasts are hypersensitive to contact inhibition (an anti-cancer mechanism that keeps cell density from getting too high) – much more so than mouse fibroblasts. They found that this contact inhibition was controlled by p53 and pRB, both known tumour suppressors.
Alex Whitworth spoke about the relationship between mitochondrial degradation and Parkinson’s disease genes. Mitochondria are highly dynamic – fusion and fission events are going on all the time – and fission promotes the degradation of damaged mitochondria. Whitworth showed that PINK1 and Parkin, genes linked to Parkinson’s disease, promote mitochondrial fission; furthermore, Parkin and PINK1 may work together to regulate mitochondrial turnover.
(For an index of coverage of all sessions, see here.)