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Exercise could be key to developing treatments for rare movement disorder

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Spinal cerebellar ataxia 6 (SCA6) can be an inherited neurological condition that includes a debilitating effect on motor coordination. Affecting around 1 in 100,000 people, the rarity of SCA6 has seen it attract only limited attention from medical scientists. To date, there is absolutely no known cure and only limited treatment plans exist.

Now, a team of McGill University researchers focusing on SCA6 along with other types of ataxia, have published findings that not merely offer expect SCA6 sufferers but could also open the best way to developing treatments for other .

Exercise in a pill

In mice suffering from SCA6, the McGill team, led by biology professor Alanna Watt, discovered that exercise restored the fitness of cells in the cerebellum, the area of the brain implicated in SCA6 along with other ataxias. The reason behind the improvement, the researchers found, was that exercise increased degrees of brain-derived (BDNF), a naturally occurring substance in the mind which supports the growth and development of nerve cells. Importantly for patients with a , for whom exercise might not continually be feasible, the team demonstrated a drug that mimicked the action of BDNF can work equally well as exercise, or even better.

Early intervention crucial

The researchers also found that BDNF levels in SCA6 mice declined prior to movement difficulties begun to appear. The drug, they found, worked to arrest the decline only when it had been given prior to the onset of outwardly visible symptoms.

“That isn’t something we really knew about SCA6,” said lead author Anna Cook, a Ph.D. candidate in Professor Watt’s lab. “If you can find these early changes in the mind that folks don’t even understand about, it will advocate for more genetic screening and early intervention for these rare diseases.”

More info: Anna A. Cook et al, Activation of TrkB-Akt signaling rescues deficits in a mouse style of SCA6, Science Advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abh3260

Citation: Exercise could be key to developing treatments for rare movement disorder (2022, September 17) retrieved 17 September 2022 from

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