Carbonyl scavengers as pharmacotherapies in degenerative disease: Hydralazine repurposing and challenges in clinical translation

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During cellular metabolism, spontaneous oxidative damage to unsaturated lipids generates many electrophilic carbonyl compounds that readily attack cell macromolecules, forming adducts that are potential drivers of tissue dysfunction. Since such damage is heightened in many degenerative conditions, researchers have assessed the efficacy of nucleophilic carbonyl-trapping drugs in animal models of such disorders, anticipating that they will protect tissues by intercepting toxic lipid-derived electrophiles (LDEs) within cells. This Commentary explores recent animal evidence for carbonyl scavenger efficacy in two disparate yet significant conditions known to involve LDE production, namely spinal cord injury (SCI) and alcoholic liver disease (ALD). Primary emphasis is placed on studies that utilised hydralazine, a clinically-approved “broad-spectrum” scavenger known to trap multiple LDEs. In addition to reviewing recent studies of hydralazine efficacy in animal SCI and ALD models, the Commentary reviews new insights concerning novel lifespan- and healthspan-extending properties of hydralazine obtained during studies in model invertebrate organisms, since the mechanisms involved seem of likely benefit during the treatment of degenerative disease. Finally, noting that human translation of the histoprotective properties of hydralazine have been limited, the final section of the Commentary will address two obstacles that hamper clinical translation of LDE-trapping therapies while also suggesting potential strategies for overcoming these problems.

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