'Traffic Cop' Brain Enzyme Identified

ATLANTA, Sept. 8 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say a newly identified enzyme acting as a “traffic engineer” in the human nervous system could lead to new treatments of neurological diseases.

University of Georgia researchers found that a protein known as MEC-17 is the traffic engineer in charge of chemically aiding the flow of signals between neurons in the brain, a university release said Wednesday.

“There was no medical or any other applied science drive for this project; it was purely curiosity about how transport inside cells works,” Jacek Gaertig, a professor in the university’s cellular biology department, said. “But it looks like we have identified an important enzyme that acts in the nervous system.”

Several research groups have previously reported that chemical effects controlled by MEC-17 are altered in human neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

With the enzyme identified and its mechanism of action understood, drug manufacturers can begin to search for compounds that block or enhance its activity, Gaertig said.

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