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Screen Finds An Antidepressant And Other Drugs That Might Work Against Prion Diseases

Posted Sep 14 2011 6:53pm

In a new study, NYU School of Medicine researchers report that they have found several chemical compounds, including an antidepressant, that have powerful effects against brain-destroying prion infections in mice, opening the door to potential treatments for human prion diseases.

The researchers, led by Thomas Wisniewski, MD, professor of neurology, pathology and psychiatry, report their findings in today’s online edition of PLoS One. Prion diseases are a family of rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders that affect both humans and animals. An unusual infectious agent, a prion—a misshapen version of a normal cellular protein—causes the fatal disorders. There are no treatments.

The researchers found that trimipramine, an antidepressant, and fluphenazine, an antipsychotic, have activity against prions. Since the drugs are already in clinical use, Dr. Wisniewski believes that doctors can test them in human patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the most common human prion disease.

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