A New Way To Treat Alzheimers: The Blood-Brain Barrier

Posted on 21 September 2015

 Credit: C.J. Guerin, MRC Toxicology Unit / Science Source.

Credit: C.J. Guerin, MRC Toxicology Unit / Science Source.

A team has revealed a new way of treating Alzheimer’s disease; the blood brain barrier.  Alzheimer’s disease may be one of the best researched conditions in the world, but we still have a lot to learn. Current treatment is sadly ineffective and scientists around the world are searching for greater understanding, and new routes of attack. Research from Trinity College Dublin offers new insight by highlighting another mechanism behind the disease – the blood-brain barrier. The brain is arguably the most valuable organ and requires unique protection. Your blood-brain barrier serves as a selective gateway, allowing particular things through and blocking the rest. This security feature ensures the safety and integrity of your brain tissue throughout your life.  Alzheimer’s disease has long been associated with a build up of a protein called amyloid beta. It’s not definitively clear how central this molecule is, but we know that Alzheimer’s patients struggle to clear it from their brain. Amyloid beta is linked to formation of deadly plaques around neurons, but in most ‘healthy’ people it’s efficiently removed through the blood stream. Scientists wondered if the blood-brain barrier could be an important target in treating the disease. 

“We have shown that distinct components of these blood vessels termed tight junctions are altered in Alzheimer’s disease. We think that this alteration could be an entrained mechanism to allow for the clearance of toxic amyloid-beta from the brain in those living with Alzheimer’s disease”

The research showed that these amyloid beta molecules could alter the barrier itself at zones called ‘tight junctions’. These are essentially tightly packed cells that act as a checkpoint, limiting what enters and leaves the brain. Amyloid beta seemed to trigger an opening of these junctions, in an attempt to clear it into the bloodstream.  This previously unknown feature is by no means a ‘cure’, but clearance of amyloid beta is one treatment scientist’s hope could really combat the disease. In combination with other medicines, controlling the barrier and shepherding more amyloid beta through into the bloodstream, could turn out to be a potent solution.  Read more at Medicalxpress

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