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Free Radic Biol Med. 2009 Apr 15;46(8):1127-38. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2009.01.019. Epub 2009 Jan 30.

An in vitro screening cascade to identify neuroprotective antioxidants in ALS.

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Academic Neurology Unit and Sheffield Care and Research Centre for Motor Neuron Disorders, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an adult-onset neurodegenerative disease, characterized by progressive dysfunction and death of motor neurons. Although evidence for oxidative stress in ALS pathogenesis is well described, antioxidants have generally shown poor efficacy in animal models and human clinical trials. We have developed an in vitro screening cascade to identify antioxidant molecules capable of rescuing NSC34 motor neuron cells expressing an ALS-associated mutation of superoxide dismutase 1. We have tested known antioxidants and screened a library of 2000 small molecules. The library screen identified 164 antioxidant molecules, which were refined to the 9 most promising molecules in subsequent experiments. Analysis of the in silico properties of hit compounds and a review of published literature on their in vivo effectiveness have enabled us to systematically identify molecules with antioxidant activity combined with chemical properties necessary to penetrate the central nervous system. The top-performing molecules identified include caffeic acid phenethyl ester, esculetin, and resveratrol. These compounds were tested for their ability to rescue primary motor neuron cultures after trophic factor withdrawal, and the mechanisms of action of their antioxidant effects were investigated. Subsequent in vivo studies can be targeted using molecules with the greatest probability of success.

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