New study points to compound's role in brain diseases

A group of scientists looking for a new way to treat Alzheimer's and other cognitive diseases says it has nailed down solid animal data that demonstrate how controlling the level of a particular compound in the brain can influence cognition.

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that reducing the level of kynurenic acid in the brains of mice improved their cognitive abilities, and they believe the same approach holds great promise for humans.

"We believe that interventions aimed specifically at reducing the level of kynurenic acid in the brain are a promising strategy for cognitive improvement in both healthy patients and in those suffering from a variety of brain diseases ranging from schizophrenia to Alzheimer's disease," says Robert Schwarcz, a professor of psychiatry, pediatrics and pharmacology and experimental therapeutics.

The compound is produced when the brain metabolizes the amino acid L-tryptophan. It's related to another breakdown product of tryptophan known as quinolinic acid, which was linked to Huntington's disease back in 1983.

- here's the university press release

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