Jun 6, 2003
Unlike other steroids, mifepristone (RU486) exhibits powerful neuroprotective effects in cultured Purkinje neurons, according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online June 2nd. These findings suggest that mifepristone may offer a future treatment for neurodegenerative diseases, the authors conclude.
Previous in vitro and in vivo studies have suggested that mifepristone protects neurons from excitotoxicity and traumatic injury, Dr. Abdel M. Ghoumari, of INSERM, Kremlin-Bictre, and colleagues explain. The mechanism by which this effect takes place is unknown, however.
To further investigate, the researchers cultured cerebellar slices from postnatal rat and mice, which normally undergo apoptosis when explanted between day 1 and day 7 after birth.
They ruled out antagonism of glucocorticosteroid receptors, first by examining cerebellar slices from progesterone-receptor knockout mice, in which mifepristone's neuroprotective effect was not diminished. Likewise, addition of corticosterone did not counteract mifepristone-associated survival.
Even though mifepristone is a known antioxidant, Dr. Ghoumari's group further demonstrated that the neuroprotection was unrelated to antioxidant activity.
Mifepristone also prevented cell death in a murine model of cerebellar neurodegeneration, they report. Therefore, they conclude that "this steroid could be considered for use in some neurodegenerative diseases."
© 2003 Reuters Ltd