Salem Radio Network News Tuesday, August 9, 2022


The Media Line: Israeli Scientists Identify Promising Molecules for Treating Now-Incurable Diseases of Aging

Israeli Scientists Identify Promising Molecules for Treating Now-Incurable Diseases of Aging

The newly identified compounds could enable the development of treatments for patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as preventive care for the general public

By Debbie Mohnblatt/The Media Line

Two Israeli researchers have discovered how to designmolecules that could potentially treat and prevent major diseasesrelated to aging such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professors Einav Gross and Shmuel Ben-Sasson identified a group of molecules that enable cells to repair damaged components, making it possible for those tissues to retain proper function. They are now in the process of fine-tuning the structure of a drug candidate that, if successful, could revolutionize medical care by extending people’s life spans and healthy years.

The research team, together with Yissum, the Hebrew University’s technology transfer company, established Vitalunga, a biotech startup that is leading a drug development program aiming to advance this technology to preclinical, and then clinical, studies.

Research team co-leader Ben-Sasson told The Media Line thatVitalunga hopes to finish the preclinical preparations within twoyears, and then launch a Phase I/II clinical trial that ifsuccessful, could gain the drug fast-track approval.

If everything goes well, he estimated that the drug will beavailable to patients in about five years, but he noted that thisalso depends on the startup attracting sufficient investments.

Of course, it depends on how much resources we will be ableto recruit,” he said. For us the path forward is clear, and we canaccelerate our clinical development plan by raising sufficientfunds, he said.

Ben-Sasson added that the ramifications of this discovery are enormous. In essence, Vitalunga hopes to provide a transformative platform technology in two aspects. The first is an oral, mechanism-based treatment for multiple, severe maladies such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, congestive heart failure, sarcopenia, etc. utilizing a single agent, he said.

The second is a family of agents that in the future could be used for wellness per se – preventive medicine for the general public.

We have a lot of work to do, but we know exactly what wehave to do in order to be in a position to explore thisopportunity,” Ben-Sasson said.

Ben-Sasson explained the principles of his and Gross’ discovery. He noted that it is based on a paradigm shift taking place in recent years where many labs in the world realized there is a unified pathogenic mechanism behind the development of multiple aging-associated diseases.

He explained that in every normal cell there is a perpetualerosion of the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, due toits excessive activity. To ensure fresh, fully functionalmitochondria in face of this wear and tear, a meticulous quality-control cellular mechanism identifies defective mitochondriaand removes them through a process called mitophagy. Theremoved mitochondria are then replaced by new ones.

Impaired mitophagy is now recognized as a primary pathogenic event underlying diverse aging-associated diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, congestive heart failure, sarcopenia, and more, that are related to tissues that do not regenerate or multiply such as the neurons, heart, and skeletal muscle, Ben-Sasson said.

Ben-Sasson and Gross initiated a bold and creative drug-designprogram that resulted in the identification of a novel family ofmitophagy activating compounds that are able to rejuvenatecells.

The compounds are user-friendly and can be taken orally, BenSasson said in a press release issued by the Hebrew University.

Vitalunga recently began discussions with several venturecapital funds, he said.

Itzik Goldwaser, the CEO of Yissum, said in a press release thatBen-Sasson and Gross’ findings have significant value for theglobe’s aging population.

“As Vitalunga advances toward preclinical studies, they’re closer than ever to minimizing the unbearable burden that aging-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, have on individuals, their families, and our health care systems,” he said.


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