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

October 1, 2012

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 ," 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 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 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 . "It appears that these prized animals are far more capable of helping get to hard-to-reach places than we ever could have imagined."

Explore further: Researchers find new way to use antibodies to carry drugs across the blood-brain barrier

More information: 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

Related Stories

Researchers find new way to use antibodies to carry drugs across the blood-brain barrier

May 26, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- In what appears to be a major breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other diseases that affect the brain, researchers from Roche Genentech have succeeded in engineering an antibody that ...

Breaching the blood-brain barrier: Researchers may have solved 100-year-old puzzle

September 13, 2011
Cornell University researchers may have solved a 100-year puzzle: How to safely open and close the blood-brain barrier so that therapies to treat Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and cancers of the central nervous ...

New protein regulates water in the brain to control inflammation

May 2, 2011
A new protein, called aquaporin-4, is making waves and found to play a key role in brain inflammation, or encephalitis. This discovery is important as the first to identify a role for this protein in inflammation, opening ...

Advances in research into Alzheimer's disease

July 9, 2011
Advances in research into Alzheimer's disease: transporter proteins at the blood CSF barrier and vitamin D may help prevent amyloid β build up in the brain

Recommended for you

New approach helps rodents with spinal cord injury breathe on their own

October 17, 2017
One of the most severe consequences of spinal cord injury in the neck is losing the ability to control the diaphragm and breathe on one's own. Now, investigators show for the first time in laboratory models that two different ...

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

New method to measure how drugs interact

October 17, 2017
Cancer, HIV and tuberculosis are among the many serious diseases that are frequently treated with combinations of three or more drugs, over months or even years. Developing the most effective therapies for such diseases requires ...

A new compound targets energy generation, thereby killing metastatic cells

October 17, 2017
Cancer can most often be successfully treated when confined to one organ. But a greater challenge lies in treating cancer that has metastasized, or spread, from the primary tumor throughout the patient's body. Although immunotherapy ...

Research finds that zinc binding is vital for regulating pH levels in the brain

October 17, 2017
Researchers in Oslo, Norway, have discovered that zinc binding plays an important role in the sensing and regulation of pH in the human brain. The findings come as one of the first studies that directly link zinc binding ...

Researchers find factor that delays wound healing

October 17, 2017
New research carried out at The University of Manchester has identified a bacterium—normally present on the skin that causes poor wound healing in certain conditions.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.