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Cell signaling study sheds light on diseases of the brain

In a study that may someday help improve treatment of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, University Professor Jean C. Shih recently published findings on a cell-signaling pathway in the July 7 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Shih, the Boyd P. and Elsie D. Welin Professorship at the School of Pharmacy, has performed pioneering molecular research on the monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes, with her research spanning the last three decades.

The research demonstrates a new cellular signaling pathway, specifically involving the MAO A enzyme and R1 transcription factor.

“The involvement of MAO A in cell death suggests that this enzyme may have a larger role in neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders.

Previously, we thought the enzyme’s only effect had to do with the oxidizing of the neurotransmitters,” said Shih, Keck School professor of molecular pharmacology.

The study also elucidates the enzyme’s action in cell growth, possibly impacting cancer therapies in the future.

“Our work provides another building block in understanding the complexities of the cell, including proliferation and death. As we learn more about cell behavior, we come closer to better understanding many diseases and to discovering therapeutic regimens to fight them,” said Kevin Chen, co-investigator and research associate professor of molecular pharmacology and toxicology at the School of Pharmacy.

Xiao-Ming Ou, research assistant professor of molecular pharmacology and toxicology at the School of Pharmacy, is the first author on the study.

Cell signaling study sheds light on diseases of the brain

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