Research highlight

One cell’s poison is another cell’s cure

Nature Neuroscience

February 27, 2012

A chemotherapy drug which is known to kill cancer cells can protect neurons from dying in an animal model of stroke, according to a study published online this week in Nature Neuroscience. ABT-737, a chemotherapy drug, is known to treat tumours by promoting programmed cell death. However, Elizabeth Jonas and colleagues report that this drug can also protect against neuronal death when administered after the blood supply to an area of the brain is temporarily cut off, for example, during ischemia or stroke. The drug appears to work by disrupting the effects of a pro-death fragment, deltaN-Bcl-xL, a protein that is produced during ischemia and can itself promote programmed cell death. The authors did not determine why this drug kills tumour cells but appears to protect neurons during ischemic episodes. However, these findings identify Bcl-xL as a potential therapeutic target for treating stroke.

doi: 10.1038/nn.3054

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