Jun
27
2007

The Upside of Rabies

Have you ever wondered why medicine seems to be so ineffective in dealing with many neurological diseases? We have treatments and drugs to combat disorders throughout the rest of the body, but diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s remain difficult to treat.

A team of scientists recently created a drug that can cross the blood-brain barrier to treat neurological diseases in mice. Capillary walls in the brain are very effective at controlling which molecules can pass into the spaces between neurons. This protects the brain from potentially harmful chemicals in the blood. Until now, this also prevented much needed medicines from penetrating into an affected brain!

But, wait. If the brain is so great at preventing molecules from penetrating capillary walls, how do diseases get through? Some viruses, such as rabies, are able to trick the barrier into letting them through. Researches attached one of these trickster molecules from rabies onto a drug, and found that the drug was delivered through the capillary wall and into the brain.

In this study, scientists infected mice with Japanese encephalitis. Medicine delivered using the new method kept 80 percent of diseased mice alive for 30 days, while all of the untreated mice died.

While researchers tested this technique only on mice, soon this could provide huge benefits to humans. The drug used to combat encephalitis in mice uses a kind of RNA, short-interfering RNAs (siRNAs), that block the activity of a gene. This type of RNA can be custom tailored to target almost any disease-causing gene or protein. Combined with the molecules that can break through the blood-brain barrier, scientists could more effectively treat Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and many more neurological diseases.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

I know this is a story from a while back but it's fascinating to stumble across. How cool is it that rabies might help us get drugs across the blood brain barrier.

Scientists are also using nanotechnology to try and get drugs across the blood brain barrier to help treat cancer in our ol' think box.

posted on Fri, 11/21/2008 - 11:39am

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