Scientists have identified a potential therapeutic target in the devastating genetic disease Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS), which is characterised by premature ageing.
Mouse study identifies new target for human accelerated aging syndrome
The study – funded by the MRC, Wellcome and Cancer Research UK – provides preclinical data showing that chemical inhibition or genetic deregulation of the enzyme N-acetyltransferase 10 (NAT10) leads to significant health and lifespan gains in a mouse model of HGPS.
HGPS is a rare condition: patients have an average life expectancy of around 15 years, suffering a variety of symptoms including short stature, low body weight, hair loss, skin thickening, problems with fat storage, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease, typically dying of a heart attack.
The disease arises from specific mutations in the gene for the protein Lamin A, which lead to production of a shorter, dysfunctional protein that accumulates in cells, specifically in the membranes surrounding the nucleus. This causes disorganisation of chromatin (the 'packaging' around DNA), deregulated transcription, accumulation of DNA damage and defective cell proliferation.
By screening candidate molecules for an effect on nuclear membranes in human HGPS patient-derived cells, the authors have previously identified a small molecule called remodelin as an effective ameliorative agent. They then identified which component of the cells was being affected by remodelin: an enzyme with a variety of cell functions, called NAT10.
The aim of the new study, published in Nature Communications, was to take these findings into a mouse model with the same genetic defect as HGPS patients, to see whether inhibiting NAT10 - either chemically by administration of remodelin, or genetically by engineering reduced production of NAT10 - could ameliorate the disease.
The results show that these approaches significantly improved the health of the diseased mice, increased their lifespan, and reduced the effects of the HGPS mutation across a variety of measures in body tissues and at the cellular level.
Senior author Professor Steve Jackson, from the Gurdon Institute and the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, commented: "We're very excited by the possibility that drugs targeting NAT10 may, in future, be tested on people suffering from HGPS. I like to describe this approach as a 're-balancing towards the healthy state'.
"We first studied the cell biology to understand how the disease affects cells, and then used those findings to identify ways to re-balance the defect at the whole-organism level. Our findings in mice suggest a therapeutic approach to HGPS and other premature ageing diseases."
This article is adapted from materials supplied by The Gurdon Institute
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