Pharmacology & therapeutics

GDNF, NGF and BDNF as therapeutic options for neurodegeneration.

PMID 23348013


Glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), and the neurotrophin nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are important for the survival, maintenance and regeneration of specific neuronal populations in the adult brain. Depletion of these neurotrophic factors has been linked with disease pathology and symptoms, and replacement strategies are considered as potential therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases. GDNF administration has recently been shown to be an effective treatment for Parkinson's disease, with clinical trials currently in progress. Trials with NGF for Alzheimer's disease are ongoing, with some degree of success. Preclinical results using BDNF also show much promise, although there are accompanying difficulties. Ultimately, the administration of a therapy involving proteins in the brain has inherent problems. Because of the blood-brain-barrier, the protein must be infused directly, produced by viral constructs, secreted from implanted protein-secreting cells or actively transported across the brain. An alternative to this is the use of a small molecule agonist, a modulator or enhancer targeting the associated receptors. We evaluate these neurotrophic factors as potential short or long-term treatments, weighing up preclinical and clinical results with the possible effects on the underlying neurodegenerative process.