One of the many ways scientists are working to unravel the mysteries of Alzheimer’s is by conducting experiments on mice that have been genetically engineered to develop the disease. Researchers pondering the protective potential of compounds found in green tea and carrots have again taken this route and returned some promising results, with the Alzheimer’s mice demonstrating unimpaired cognitive function following a carefully designed bout of treatment.
Scientists believe that the underlying cause of many neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, is the buildup of misfolded protein clusters in the brain. A new antibody treatment developed by a team at the NYU School of Medicine has the potential to target a feature of these misfolded proteins shared by several different diseases, promising a possible single treatment for a variety of neurological disorders.
A host of debilitating disorders of the central nervous system cry out for treatment. Diseases like Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s — colloquially known as “The Long Goodbye” — come prominently to mind. All exact torturous tolls, both physical and mental, on the afflicted and their families. Nobody should have to endure them.
But imagine, one day, if Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s could be treated with a simple nasal spray. Wouldn’t that be incredible? Well, that’s just what Cobi Heijnen, a professor of neuroimmunology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, hopes to accomplish, using ubiquitous, often-overlooked bubble-like organelles present in almost all kinds of cells: exosomes.
Perhaps the most obstructing barrier to treating neurological conditions is quite literally a barrier. Tightly packed endothelial cells with restrictive junctions separate the body’s circulating blood from the brain’s extracellular fluid. This blood-brain barrier is a decidedly good thing, as it seals off our precious brains from common bacterial infections. However, like the overprotective father that blindly regards all of his daughter’s boyfriends as devilish miscreants, the blood-brain barrier frequently thwarts the delivery of many beneficial diagnostic and therapeutic agents to the brain, making it exceedingly difficult to treat neurological ailments.