Scientists have not known exactly how inflammation weakens the Blood-Brain Barrier until now, allowing toxins and other molecules access to the brain.
A new research report appearing in the June 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal solves this mystery by showing that a molecule, called "microRNA-155," is responsible for cleaving epithelial cells to create microscopic gaps that let material through. Not only does this discovery help explain the molecular underpinnings of diseases like multiple sclerosis, but it also opens an entirely new avenue for developing therapies that can help penetrate the Blood-Brain Barrier to deliver lifesaving drugs.
According to Ignacio A, Romero, Ph.D., "We are beginning to understand the mechanisms by which the barrier between the blood and the brain becomes leaky in inflammatory conditions. Based on these and other findings, drugs that reduce the leakiness of the barrier have the potential to improve symptoms in many neurological conditions." Romero is one of the researchers involved in the work from the Department of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences of the Biomedical Research Network at The Open University in the United Kingdom.
"This study has the potential to be a game-changer in terms of how we treat neurological conditions and how we deliver drugs to the brain," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Since it was first discovered, the Blood-Brain Barrier has always been a touch elusive. Now, after careful analysis, we are learning exactly how our bodies keep our brains safe and that microRNA-155 is a key player."