Our bodies are structured in such a way that one of our most important organs, the brain, survives. The blood-brain barrier, a group of cells in the brain and spinal cord, act as a protective barrier for the brain, making it hard for anything but small molecules to cross into the central nervous system from the bloodstream. This is very important, of course, but it does impede drugs from reaching the brain, as well.
A new study published in Molecular Therapy states that University of Pennsylvania researchers have found a way to pass this barrier. By pairing a receptor that targets neurons with a molecule aimed at degrading the main component of Alzheimer’s plaques, they were able to significantly dissolve the plaques in mice and human brain tissue. This offers a potential solution to treating brain diseases.
Researchers began with considering how they could get around the blood-brain barrier. Henry Daniell, a professor in Penn’s School of Dental Medicine, hypothesized that they may be able to piggy back on a carrier that was permitted to cross over. The protein CTB, a non toxic carrier currently approved for use in humans by the FDA, was used for this study.
Then they identified a protein that could reduce the plaques found in the Alzheimer patient’s brains. These proteins were coupled with CTB to see if the protein could pass. The first trials were conducted on mice, in which they were fed the protein through capsules of freeze dried leaves that were genetically engineered by Daniell a a means of orally administering drugs and vaccines. A green florescent protein was also added to track the proteins. They were able to track the glowing protein in the retinas as well as the brain.
When CTB was not used, the results were different, showing the importance of the carrier protein.
Read more: Science Daily