The revolution in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and many other age-related diseases will come in the coming decades and will do so in part thanks to the proteins responsible for cell connections, which could also increase the effectiveness of cancer therapies. .
The city of A Coruña hosts, for the first time in Spain, the international congress on cellular communications “International Gap Junction Conference 2022”, an event that has been held since 1974 and brings together some two hundred researchers.
María Mayán (Porto do Son, A Coruña, 1977) works at the Biomedical Research Institute of La Coruña (INIBIC), is part of the organizing committee and works in a pioneering team at the international level in connections through proteins of channel, called connexins and pannexins.
He explains to Efe that these proteins “form channels on the surface of cells which allow communication both between the cells themselves in contact and with their environment”, they are therefore essential for the functioning of organs and tissues. .
He illustrates this with the functioning of the heart, where they transmit the cardiac impulse, and of neurons, where they are keys to send information, which was crucial for his discovery decades ago.
It works with the different types of connexins and pannexins that exist, since the alterations in their functions are responsible for the development of diseases and essential in their treatment.
His workgroup confirmed that one of these connexins is involved in the cellular aging process, known as senescence, and they took advantage of this activity to study its effect on the response to targeted therapies and immunotherapy. in cancer.
This is why it has just filed three patents related to increasing the effectiveness of various targeted therapies in cancer, with applicability to different types of cancer, such as breast, lung or melanoma.
Since these proteins are involved in processes such as inflammation and tissue damage, they have been discovered as new therapeutic targets to prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease or osteoarthritis, which can change the lives of patients. .
Even in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, María Mayán considers that it is possible, in the decades to come, “that by modulating the activity of these proteins, the progression of the disease can be prevented and regeneration favored “.
This would mean a real revolution in this change, there is still a lot of work to be done but the results of several groups indicate that “the degeneration that occurs at the level of the brain” could be avoided and the studies, so far, at the both in this area and in cancer, for example, the level of immune system response, show “very promising results”.
He recognizes, however, that “there is still a lot to deepen” within “very complex” files on which “we know more and more and a new field is opening up”.
At INIBIC, they have accumulated experience since 2011 and see that, little by little, the development of drugs that modulate these proteins are beginning to reach patients, since some are already in clinical trials in the United States and are applicable. to problems such as healing, inflammation or macular degeneration.
All these questions are addressed from this Saturday until next Wednesday in A Coruña, headquarters of the international congress.
They will talk about scientific studies on the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of neurodegenerative, cardiac or cancerous diseases, among other diseases in which alterations of these proteins intervene in their development or evolution.
“We will have the opportunity to know the results of the investigations which have not yet been published and to establish new lines of collaboration and cooperation between us,” he adds.
In addition to joint work, María Mayán emphasizes that the appointment attaches great importance to young researchers, who are the future in this field.