Aspirin could one day help target neurodegenerative diseases

Posted Dec 1, 2015 by Tim Sandle
Medical scientists have found that a breakdown product from aspirin can block the cell death associated with various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.
File photo showing employees of German pharmaceuticals group Bayer checking Aspirin Complex drugs in...
File photo showing employees of German pharmaceuticals group Bayer checking Aspirin Complex drugs in Bitterfeld, eastern Germany
Jens Schlueter, DDP/AFP/File
A recent study has found a component of aspirin, called salicylic acid, is capable of binding to an enzyme called GAPDH. The enzyme is associated with the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's. GAPDH (glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase) is ordinarily involved with the breakdown glucose for energy in the body. However, through through interactions with other proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases, GAPDH is considered to play a role in helping such diseases progress. An example is the association with beta-amyloid precursor protein, which is the main component of the amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer patients.
Salicylic acid is the primary breakdown product of aspirin. The acid is found in the bark of the willow tree, from which aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) was originally derived. Analysis has found salicylic acid binds to GAPDH. This, in turn, halts the enzyme from moving into the nucleus of a cell. When GAPDH enters cells it can trigger the death of the cell.
Some drugs are available that carry out a similar function,. For example, a Parkinson's drug called deprenyl blocks GAPDH's entry into the nucleus of cells. Salicylic acid could, based on the analyses, do the same thing at a fraction of the cost. Further work, including animal studies, will be required to confirm this. What the research is not saying, at this point, is that taking doses of aspirin will prevent neurodegenerative diseases.
The research is published in the journal PLoS One, in a paper headed "Human GAPDH Is a Target of Aspirin’s Primary Metabolite Salicylic Acid and Its Derivatives."