Spanish chemists have developed a promising set of synthetic compounds that one day could help slow or perhaps halt the progression of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders. The preliminary finding, based on test tube studies by researchers at the Universidad de Granada and others, appears in the Dec. 29 issue of the American Chemical Society's Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
The compounds, particularly a synthesized metabolite of the hormone melatonin, all inhibit an enzyme called inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), which is needed to produce nitric oxide (NO). NO, a signaling molecule that can activate the immune system, plays an important role in the brain, according to the researchers. But too much NO can trigger the death of brain cells and some scientists theorize the compound is involved in the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
Like melatonin, the new synthetic compounds apparently can cross biological barriers, suppress iNOS production, and, in turn, prevent NO-induced brain damage, the researchers say. However, they caution that additional research will be needed to verify these results.