A popular food supplement may contribute to a cure for a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder, researchers from Tel Aviv University discovered.

Professors Gil Ast and Eran Perlson of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine have made significant progress in research towards a cure for Familial Dysautonomia (FD), a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder that affects approximately one in 31 Jewish people of Eastern European, or Ashkenazi, ancestry.

FD affects aspects of the autonomic nervous system.

The research examined the neuron degeneration caused by FD as well as the positive effects of phosphatidylserine, a therapeutic food supplement. The study was published in PLOS Genetics, which explains that the disease “is an autosomal recessive congenital neuropathy that occurs almost exclusively in the Ashkenazi Jewish population with a remarkably high carrier frequency ranging from 1 in 18 (in those of Polish descent) to 1 in 32. Individuals with FD suffer from a variety of symptoms, including vomiting crises, pneumonia, ataxia, difficulty swallowing, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular dysfunction and short life spans.”

“Neurons are the longest cells in our body,” said Prof. Ast, according to an article published on the Tel Aviv University website. “‘Highways’ along our neurons allow ‘trucks’ with ‘cargo’ to supply our neurons with essential supplies. In most neurodegenerative diseases these highways — called microtubules — and the axonal transport process are impaired. Our study demonstrates that alterations in the stability of microtubules and disruptions in the transport may lead to FD.”

The research team, the article continues, generated a mouse model of FD. The mice exhibited symptoms similar to those experienced by human patients with FD.

“Phosphatidylserine can repair the activity in neurons from the FD mouse by reducing the amount of the enzyme that removes the ‘glue’ from the ‘bricks,’” Prof. Ast stated. “This elevates the stability of the ‘highways’ and increases essential cargo movement along these neurological pathways.”

The researchers are currently researching ways of improving the delivery of phosphatidylserine to the nervous system.

Teva Pharmaceuticals contributed support for this research through the National Network of Excellence.

By: United with Israel Staff

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