"We found that we can develop antisense which is a molecular compound to cross the blood brain barrier enough to alter brain function. This can have a profound effect on treating diseases that occur because there is too much or too little of a certain kind of protein in the brain," says William A. Banks, M.D., professor of geriatrics and pharmacological and physiological sciences at Saint Louis University and principal investigator.
"The blood brain barrier is the Holy Grail it's the most difficult tissue to pass through."
The article will run in the April print issue of Peptides.
Antisense molecules are very specific compounds that scientists can create to plug into genetic pathways and block certain genes from producing harmful proteins.
Many scientists believe that overproduction of the amyloid beta protein in the brain causes Alzheimer's disease. Previous Saint Louis University research has found that scientists can develop antisense to cross the blood brain barrier and lower levels of amyloid beta protein in mice.
Banks tested whether the antisense theory could be generalized to reduce other brain chemicals in a mouse study involving a different protein the brain chemical methionine enkephalin (Met-Enk).
Low brain levels of Met-Enk trigger alcohol consumption. High levels of Met-Enk cause animals to drink less.
His study team created three different antisense compounds, which lowered brain levels of Met-Enk and caused mice to drink more alcohol.
"The antisense inhibited the brain's production of Met-Enk and, as predicted, the animals drank more," says Banks, who also is a staff physician at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis.