Skip to content

LSU Health discovery may open new therapeutic avenues for degenerative diseases of the brain and eye

December 22, 2023

Scientists at Louisiana State University led by Nicolas Bazan, M.D., Ph.D. have identified a new mechanism that regulates a protein key for cell survival. It appears to protect against the excessive oxidative stress that precedes the development of neurodegenerative diseases of the brain and eye. Results are published in the Nature journal, Cell Death & Disease.

“This discovery goes beyond the commonly studied transcriptional modulation, suggesting its impact on protection against oxidative stress-related diseases and extension of lifespan,” notes Dr. Bazan, who is also the Ernest C. and Yvette C. Villere Chair for Retinal Degenerations and Bollinger Family Professor in Alzheimer’s Disease. “We found that Elovanoid-34 modulates the activity of the protein, TXNRD1, which is central to the initiation cascade of oxidative stress.”

Elovanoid-34 is part of a class of molecules in the brain discovered by the Bazan lab that synchronize cell-to-cell communication and neuroinflammation-immune activity in response to injury or disease. Elovanoids are bioactive chemical messengers made from omega-3 very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are released on demand when cells are damaged or stressed.

Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidant defenses to detoxify them. It can lead to cell and tissue damage and the onset of diseases.

The research team, which included scientists from the Swiss company Biognosys AG, identified the proteins affected by Elavamoid-34. Using proteomics, they screened 130,000 protein sequences corresponding to 4,749 proteins and discovered that only one changed in structure upon contact with Elovanoid-34. Researchers found that TXNRD1 is a crucial component of the antioxidant system, Glutathione, and targets a regulator of Ferroptosis, a type of cell death. This is particularly the case in age-related macular degeneration where the support cells of the photoreceptors of the retina succumb to excessive oxidative stress conditions. These cells, called retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, can be rescued from death by Elovanoid-34, stopping the neurodegeneration of the retina and blindness. The current study uses human RPE cells, which were developed in the Bazan lab.

“This breakthrough discovery opens new therapeutic avenues for various pathologies and the promotion of successful aging of the nervous system,” concludes Dr. Bazan.

LSU Health New Orleans Neuroscience Center coauthors also included Drs. Jorgelina Calandria, Surjyadipta Bhattacharjee, Sayantani Kala-Bhattacharjee, and Pranab K. Mukherjee. Coauthors from Biognosys AG included Yuehan Feng, Jakob Vowinckel and Tobias Treiber.

The research was supported by NEI and the Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat Foundation in New Orleans.