Journal article Open Access
Greig, N. H.
Owing to improving preventative, diagnostic, and therapeutic measures for cardiovascular disease and a variety of cancers, the average ages of North Americans and Europeans continue to rise. Regrettably, accompanying this increase in life span, there has been an increase in the number of individuals afflicted with age‐related neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and stroke. Although different cell types and brain areas are vulnerable among these, each disorder likely develops from activation of a common final cascade of biochemical and cellular events that eventually lead to neuronal dysfunction and death. In this regard, different triggers, including oxidative damage to DNA, the overactivation of glutamate receptors, and disruption of cellular calcium homeostasis, albeit initiated by different genetic and/or environmental factors, can instigate a cascade of intracellular events that induce apoptosis. To forestall the neurodegenerative process, we have chosen specific targets to inhibit that are at pivotal rate‐limiting steps within the pathological cascade. Such targets include TNF‐α, p53, and GLP‐1 receptor. The cytokine TNF‐α is elevated in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Its synthesis can be reduced via posttranscriptional mechanisms with novel analogues of the classic drug, thalidomide. The intracellular protein and transcription factor, p53, is activated by the Alzheimer's disease toxic peptide, Aβ, as well as by excess glutamate and hypoxia to trigger neural cell death. It is inactivated by novel tetrahydrobenzothiazole and ‐oxazole analogues to rescue cells from lethal insults. Stimulation of the glucagon‐like peptide‐1 receptor (GLP‐1R) in brain is associated with neurotrophic functions that, additionally, can protect cells against excess glutamate and other toxic insults.