Tissue model reveals role of blood-brain barrier in Alzheimer’s disease

Scientists found that damage caused by Alzheimer’s allows toxins to enter the brain, further harming neurons.

Beta-amyloid plaques, the protein aggregates that form in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, disrupt many brain functions and can kill neurons. They can also damage the blood-brain barrier — the normally tight border that prevents harmful molecules in the bloodstream from entering the brain.

Tissue model

MIT engineers have now developed a tissue model that mimics beta-amyloid’s effects on the blood-brain barrier, and used it to show that this damage can lead molecules such as thrombin, a clotting factor normally found in the bloodstream, to enter the brain and cause additional damage to Alzheimer’s neurons.

“We were able to show clearly in this model that the amyloid-beta secreted by Alzheimer’s disease cells can actually impair barrier function, and once that is impaired, factors are secreted into the brain tissue that can have adverse effects on neuron health,” says Roger Kamm, the Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Mechanical and Biological Engineering at MIT.

The researchers also used the tissue model to show that a drug that restores the blood-brain barrier can slow down the cell death seen in Alzheimer’s neurons.

Kamm and Rudolph Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, are the senior authors of the study, which appears in the journal Advanced Science. MIT postdoc Yoojin Shin is the paper’s lead author.

The study was published in the journal, Advanced Science.

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Source: ScienceDaily | August 12, 2019

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