The rare disorder stems from a mutation in a gene that produces an abnormal cellular protein, which attaches itself to structures in the cell's nucleus. The accumulated protein deforms the nucleus, sparking miscommunications with other cells and leading to the genetic disease.
FINDINGS: UCLA scientists studied cells isolated from people with progeria and cultured the cells with a drug that blocked the mutant protein from attaching to the cells' nuclei. The drug significantly reduced the number of human cells with misshapen nuclei. The UCLA team earlier used the same approach to improve the shape of abnormal nuclei from mice genetically engineered to develop progeria.
IMPACT: The findings offer new clues into how progeria develops and could lead to new drugs to treat the disease and its related disorders, including osteoporosis and hardening of the arteries. UCLA's next step will be to test whether returning the shape of the nuclei to normal stops development of progeria in mice.
AUTHORS: Dr. Stephen Young, professor of cardiology; and Loren Fong, Ph.D., assistant professor of cardiology; David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, are available for interviews.
FUNDING: The National Institute of Aging and the Progeria Research Foundation funded the study.
JOURNAL: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publishes the research online on Aug. 29. A PDF is available upon request. For more information on progeria, see www.progeriaresearch.org.