Ben Philpot and Mark Zylka have discovered a biochemical mechanism that could be the cause of the neurological side effects of chemotherapy, including memory loss, confusion, difficulty thinking, and trouble concentrating.
Their research, found in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and recently feature in the News and Observer, shows how the drug topotecan, commonly used in chemotherapy, can drastically suppress the expression of Topoisomerase-1, a gene that triggers the creation of proteins essential for normal brain functions. While the drug is present in the cells, they are in a dormant state; however, after the drug is eliminated, the synaptic function returned to normal.
In addition to the chemotherapy implications, they suggest that if these enzymes are affected during brain development, the result could be long-term neurodevelopmental problems, such as those found in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
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