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Penn study delivers protein across blood-brain barrier to degrade Alzheimer's plaques
Date:12/6/2013

The body is structured to ensure that any invading organisms have a tough time reaching the brain, an organ obviously critical to survival. Known as the blood-brain barrier, cells that line the brain and spinal cord are tightly packed, making it difficult for anything besides very small molecules to cross from the bloodstream into the central nervous system. While beneficial, this blockade also stands in the way of delivering drugs intended to treat neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's.

In a new study published in the journal Molecular Therapy, University of Pennsylvania researchers have found a way of traversing the blood-brain barrier, as well as a similar physiological obstacle in the eye, the retinal-blood barrier. By pairing a receptor that targets neurons with a molecule that degrades the main component of Alzheimer's plaques, the biologists were able to substantially dissolve these plaques in mice brains and human brain tissue, offering a potential mechanism for treating the debilitating disease, as well as other conditions that involve either the brain or the eyes.

The work was led by Henry Daniell, a professor in Penn's School of Dental Medicine's departments of biochemistry and pathology and director of translational research. The research team included Penn Dental Medicine's Neha Kohli, Donevan R. Westerveld, Alexandra C. Ayache and Sich L. Chan. Co-authors at the University of Florida College of Medicine, including Amrisha Verma, Pollob Shil, Tuhina Prasad, Ping Zhu and Quihong Li, analyzed retinal tissues.

The researchers began their work by considering how they might breach the blood-brain barrier. Daniell hypothesized that a molecule might be permitted to cross if it was attached to a carrier that is able to pass over, as a sort of molecular crossing guard. The protein cholera toxin B, or CTB, a non-toxic carrier currently approved for use in humans by the Food and Drug Administration, is used in this s
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Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie
kbaillie@upenn.edu
215-898-9194
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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