Neuroprotective strategies against calpain-mediated neurodegeneration
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Calpains are calcium-dependent proteolytic enzymes that have deleterious effects on neurons upon their pathological over-activation. According to the results of numerous studies to date, there is no doubt that abnormal calpain activation triggers activation and progression of apoptotic processes in neurodegeneration, leading to neuronal death. Thus, it is very crucial to unravel all the aspects of calpain-mediated neurodegeneration in order to protect neurons through eliminating or at least minimizing its lethal effects. Protecting neurons against calpain-activated apoptosis basically requires developing effective, reliable, and most importantly, therapeutically applicable approaches to succeed. From this aspect, the most significant studies focusing on preventing calpain-mediated neurodegeneration include blocking the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-type glutamate receptor activities, which are closely related to calpain activation; directly inhibiting calpain itself via intrinsic or synthetic calpain inhibitors, or inhibiting its downstream processes; and utilizing the neuroprotectant steroid hormone estrogen and its receptors. In this review, the most remarkable neuroprotective strategies for calpain-mediated neurodegeneration are categorized and summarized with respect to their advantages and disadvantages over one another, in terms of their efficiency and applicability as a therapeutic regimen in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.