(ORDO NEWS) — Our brain is constantly protected by the blood-brain barrier – a semi-permeable cellular “partition” between the circulatory and central nervous systems.
Its task is not to allow pathogens to enter the brain, but along with them, it also does not allow drugs that can save a person’s life to pass. For many years, scientists have been trying to find a solution to this serious problem, and it seems that something has begun to work out.
If scientists can deliver drugs to the brain that bypass the blood-brain barrier, humanity may have a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors and depression.
The human brain is made up of billions of neurons, vulnerable cells that need protection to function properly. And this protection is provided by the blood-brain barrier – a huge vascular network that, like a bouncer, controls which substances can enter the brain and which cannot.
Basically, the blood-brain barrier prevents pathogens from entering the brain, but also keeps drugs out. There are cases when the infection somehow managed to get into the brain, but the doctors could not cure it just because of the resistance of the blood-brain barrier.
What scientists came up with
For years, the goal of neuroscientists has been to find a magic bullet that temporarily weakens the blood-brain barrier so that doctors can quickly inject drugs into the brain of a sick person.
And researchers from Yale University (USA) were able to achieve some results – in their study, they proposed the use of antibodies that block some receptors and temporarily “open” the barrier.
We figured out for the first time how to control the blood-brain barrier with a molecule.
1- To understand the essence of this complex study, you need to learn three things:
2- The human body has the most important molecular signaling pathway, Wnt, on which embryonic development and cell differentiation depend.
3- Mammals also have the UNC5B receptor, which is expressed in capillary endothelial cells.
And lastly, there is the protein claudin-5, which is necessary to create tight junctions between the endothelial cells of the blood-brain barrier.
Step 1 – scientists look for new connections
Now back to the research itself. In the course of their experiments, the scientists decided to see what would happen if they took mouse embryos and “pulled out” the UNC5B receptor from their body – it turned out that after this intervention, the vascular network of mice could not form properly. That is, UNC5B is required for vascular development.
The researchers also found that during their experiment, the amount of claudin-5 protein was significantly reduced, which meant that the UNC5B receptor may play some role in maintaining the blood-brain barrier.
Step 2 – Scientists try to “turn off” the blood-brain barrier
The scientists then took adult healthy mice with an established blood-brain barrier and removed the UNC5B receptor from their bodies. And what did they see? Without this receptor, the barrier remained “open” and allowed everything to pass through.
After that, it remained to find out which molecules bind to receptors and send signals between cells or inside them – that is, who is responsible for the barrier effect. It turned out that the Netrin-1 protein plays an important role in this process.
And now scientists only had to develop an antibody that would block the binding of Netrin-1 to receptors. After injecting the new substance, the team was able to disrupt the Wnt signaling pathway, causing the blood-brain barrier to temporarily shut down.
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