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Hormone shows promise in reversing Alzheimer’s disease and stroke
Date:11/12/2008

ST. LOUIS -- Saint Louis University researchers have identified a novel way of getting a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease and stroke into the brain where it can do its work.

"We found a unique approach for delivering drugs to the brain," says William A. Banks, M.D., professor of geriatrics and pharmacological and physiological science at Saint Louis University. "We're turning off the guardian that's keeping the drugs out of the brain."

The brain is protected by the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a gate-keeping system of cells that lets in nutrients and keeps out foreign substances. The blood-brain barrier passes no judgment on which foreign substances are trying to get into the brain to treat diseases and which are trying to do harm, so it blocks them without discrimination.

"The problem in treating a lot of diseases of the central nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, HIV and stroke is that we can't get drugs past the blood-brain barrier and into the brain," says Banks, who also is a staff physician at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis.

"Our new research shows a way of getting a promising treatment for these types of devastating diseases to where they need to be to work."

The therapy known as PACAP27 -- is a hormone produced by the body that is a general neuro-protectant. PACAP stands for pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide. "It is a general protector of the brain against many types of insult and injury," Banks says.

He compares a specific guarding mechanism in the BBB -- efflux pumps to bouncers at exclusive nightclubs. While they welcome those on the approved guest list, they look for trouble-makers trying to crash the party, refuse to let them in and evict them if they do get in.

The scientists isolated the particular gatekeeper than evicts PACAP27. Then they designed an antisense, a specific molecule that turned off the impediment.

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Contact: Nancy Solomon
solomonn@slu.edu
314-977-8017
Saint Louis University
Source:Eurekalert

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