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Alzheimer's, arthritis and multiple sclerosis treatments could be improved by Queensland scientists' development of MCC950 molecule

April 14, 2015

A Queensland discovery could be the key to improved treatments for diseases like Alzheimer's, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. 

Scientists at the University of Queensland worked with an international team to develop a molecule that fights one of the main causes of inflammatory diseases, a breakthrough researchers say could lead to safer and cheaper treatments. Professor Matt Cooper, from the University's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, said the molecule known as MCC950 could help prevent inflammation in immune cells.

"It is one of the first molecules we've ever seen that can attack this complex we call the inflammasome – and that's in every one of our immune cells, it's a key part of our response to infection," he said.

"But when it goes wrong, it activates these cells so then people become chronically agitated and [their] immune system goes into overdrive." Professor Cooper said the molecule was tested on animals and blood samples from patients in the US.

"Patients have donated blood samples, these are patients with a very severe form of inflammation called Muckle-Wells syndrome," he said. "We can see in those patients this immune response, this inflammasome is overactive and when we give the compound to those blood samples in a laboratory we can stop that process."

Professor Cooper pointed out the new molecule could be taken orally and would be cheaper to produce than current protein-based treatments. "This is a very small molecule and passes from the gut into your bloodstream very quickly," he said. "But it also means it can go places that proteins can't get ... particularly in the brain, and with multiple sclerosis into the CNS – the central nervous system."

Professor Cooper said it was not clear whether the molecule could cure inflammatory diseases or just treat the symptoms. The study is an international collaboration with scientists from the United States, Trinity College in Dublin and Germany. The next step is clinical trials.

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