The heat shock proteins (hsps) are expressed in normal cells but their expression is enhanced by a number of different stresses including heat and ischemia. They play important roles in chaperoning the folding of other proteins and in protein degradation. In the brain, a number of studies have shown that prior induction of the hsps by a mild stress has a protective effect against a more severe stress. Moreover, over-expression of an individual hsp in neuronal cells in culture and in the intact brain either of transgenic animals or using virus vectors also produces a protective effect, directly demonstrating the ability of the hsps to produce protection. These findings indicate the potential importance of developing procedures for elevating hsp expression in a safe and efficient manner in human individuals either using pharmacological or gene therapy procedures.
Keywords: heat shock proteins, neuronal cells, brain, stress, protection, virus vectors, transgenic animals, gene therapy
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