That’s right, Mad Cow disease we all know and fear it from our brushes with it in the 1990’s, however Adam Renslo of the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues find this of great interest. CJD as its known in its shortened form is a nasty illness that humanity would be better off without. Its also part of a unique family of only a handful of similar neurological conditions which are caused by a misfolding of a particular protein found in the membranes of nerve cells. Before your eyes glaze over, you’re asking, other than the causing higher beef prices, why should I care, as I don’t plan to visit any farms in the British county side.
Well the answer is there exists a natural barrier between the bloodstream and the brain, which protects it from harmful chemicals. However this same barrier interprets many therapeutic drugs, as harmful, and thus keeps them out of the brain and if a drug cannot cross the barrier, it will not make for effective neurological treatment. To address this, Dr Renslo and his colleagues have been analyzing and modifying the chemical structure of molecules know as aminothiazoles to see if it is possible to enable them to cross this blood-brain barrier.
Now Dr. Renslo reports in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, they believe they have now found the solutions and it involves making the drug appear to look like cholesterol which is an important component to the healthy function of the brain as its pretty much a fatty suspended mass. What does this mean in general and why is it important, while on the positive side of the equation are diseases such as Alzheimer’s which has remained outside of the range of normal treatments because of the BBB (Blood Brain Barrier) now becomes reachable. This is a huge benefit as having seen loved one surcome to this fate is horrifying as what do we have if we don’t have our memories.
However on the other side of the coin as life is zero sum, the battle becomes much like that of the antibacterial debate as with everything, there are two sides of an equation. Thus as we increase the “anti” side with antibiotics and the like, the other side while being latent without question is building and we’ve spoken here about the development of “Black Swans”. Same will hold true with Dr Renslo’s work as the Blood Brain Barrier has been one of the last protective mechanisms in place. So think of this should a radical cholesterol molecule make its way from the lab to the wild what would this mean? While the cholesterol molecule on the surface itself is not “biological” in the sense like a bacterium or virus which is self replicating either by itself or via a host as in the case of a virus. However the delivery of a viral “package” within the cholesterol molecule itself could have wide spread epidemiological impacts.
As with the splitting of the atom there is good and there is bad as we live in a zero sum world and its only a matter of time before the distributions change. Therefore this discovery is something worth watching for better or worse…