Newly discovered acid may fight neurological disorder

.c Kyodo News Service

KYOTO, Feb. 26 (Kyodo) - A team of Japanese scientists has successfully extracted a previously undiscovered substance from fetal calf serum which can protect neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) from harmful endogenous materials.

Team member Akinori Akaike, pharmacology professor at Kyoto University, expressed hope the discovery of the substance -- named serofendic acid by the team -- can lead to the development of new drugs targeting various neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

The findings, published Tuesday in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that serofendic acid ''functions as a potent endogenous neuroprotective factor'' against glutamate and free radicals.

Excessive activation of glutamate, a key excitatory neurotransmitter, and production of free radicals, including nitric oxide, are known to likely cause ''severe and irreversible damage'' to the CNS.

The team had discovered the serofendic acid about five years ago and had been working towards extracting and isolating it from the calf serum.

In a study using rats, the team observed that serofendic acid protected rat neurons from nitric oxide cytotoxicity, as it was able to prevent about 80% of those cells from dying. Usually, half of the cells would die when glutomate or free radicals were introduced.

The team said it has yet to trace how such acid is produced, since it is not detected in the body of a mature calf.

AP-NY-02-25-02 2227EST