Neurobiologists at Heidelberg University have discovered how a special receptor at neuronal junctions that normally activates a protective genetic programme can lead to nerve cell death when located outside synapses. Their fundamental findings on neurodegenerative processes simultaneously led the researchers at the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences (IZN) to a completely new principle for therapeutic agents. In their experiments on mouse models, they discovered a new class of highly effective inhibitors for protecting nerve cells. As Prof. Dr Hilmar Bading points out, this novel class of drugs opens up — for the first time — perspectives to combat currently untreatable diseases of the nervous system. The results of this research were published in Science.
The research by Prof. Bading and his team is focused on the so-called NMDA receptor. This receptor is an ion channel protein that is activated by a biochemical messenger: the neurotransmitter glutamate. It allows calcium to