[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 1-Oct-2012
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Contact: Cody Mooneyhan
cmooneyhan@faseb.org
301-634-7104
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Camels give President Obama's Alzheimer's plan a lift

New research in The FASEB Journal suggests that serum from animals such as camels, llamas, and alpacas could enhance brain imaging and help drugs pass through the blood-brain barrier

Bethesda, MD—President Obama's national plan to fight Alzheimer's disease just got a lift thanks to a team of international researchers whose recent discovery may lead to enhanced imaging of and improved drug delivery to the brain. A research report appearing in The FASEB Journal, describes an entirely new class of antibody discovered in camelids (camels, dromedaries, llamas, and alpacas) that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, diffuse into brain tissue, and reach specific targets. Having such antibodies, which are naturally available, may be part of a "game changer" in the outcomes for people with brain diseases that are poorly diagnosed and treated, at best, using today's tools.

"This basic biological investigation opens new pathways toward innovative therapeutic solutions for intractable diseases such as Alzheimer's disease or brain tumors," said Pierre Lafaye, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Institut Pasteur, PF: Production de Protéines Recombinantes et d'Anticorps –Proteopole in Paris, France. "The importance of this study is the hope that this novel approach may be a useful tool in crossing the blood brain barrier for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes," added Babbette Weksler, MD, Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, another author of the study and editorial board member of The FASEB Journal.

Lafaye and colleagues studied alpacas, a member of the camelid family, and discovered an antibody naturally able to cross the blood brain barrier without chemical modification. Then, additional research showed that after these antibodies entered the brain successfully, they diffused into the brain tissue to reach a target, which in this study was astrocytes. This study shows, for the first time, an antibody penetrated into the brain in vivo, under normal physiological conditions. In addition to the obvious clinical applications of this finding, it opens the doors to new research involving the body's systems for recognizing self v. "nonself."

"Camels may be most famous for helping people travel to the outermost reaches of the desert, but soon they could be also known for helping us reach the innermost parts of our brains," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "It appears that these prized animals are far more capable of helping get to hard-to-reach places than we ever could have imagined."

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Receive monthly highlights from The FASEB Journal by e-mail. Sign up at http://www.faseb.org/fjupdate.aspx. The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and is the most cited biology journal worldwide according to the Institute for Scientific Information. In 2010, the journal was recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century. FASEB is composed of 26 societies with more than 100,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Celebrating 100 Years of Advancing the Life Sciences in 2012, FASEB is rededicating its efforts to advance health and well-being by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.

Tengfei Li, Jean-Pierre Bourgeois, Susanna Celli, Fabienne Glacial, Anne-Marie Le Sourd, Salah Mecheri, Babette Weksler, Ignacio Romero, Pierre-Olivier Couraud, François Rougeon, and Pierre Lafaye. Cell-penetrating anti-GFAP VHH and corresponding fluorescent fusion protein VHH-GFP spontaneously cross the blood-brain barrier and specifically recognize astrocytes: application to brain imaging. FASEB J October 2012, 26:3969-3979; doi:10.1096/fj.11-201384 ; http://www.fasebj.org/content/26/10/3969.abstract



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