The most complex and least-understood organ in the body is the brain and it is made up of many specialized areas that work together. Now modern methods, such as pharmacology and gene editing, can show how certain drugs and genes affect the cells in specific regions of the brain.
Causes of neuropsychiatric disorders
A researcher, Michael Tadross, MD, PhD, has developed a method to ensure that any drug injected into an area of the brain will only affect the targeted cell type. The researcher genetically modified a cell type of interest so that the special receptor protein known as the HaloTag is expressed at the cell membrane. Besides, the drug of interest is modified so that it can be chained with the molecule that binds with the HaloTag receptor.
Connecting the drug with the HaloTag ligand and modifying only the cell type targeted to express the specific Halo-Tag receptor, the researcher successfully limited the cells affected by the drugs to a single sample. The method is referred to as DART or tethering.
Using the DART method in the study of Parkinson’s disease
Tadross has been using the DART method to understand the mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease fully. Parkinson’s is a neurological disease affecting a region of the brain known as the striatum. It causes slow movements, tremors, and rigid muscles, among other motor deficits.
Patients with this disease always exhibit decreased levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the striatum. However, treatments involving the restoration of dopamine improves symptoms. From the information, Parkinson’s has been seen as a disease being caused by a reduction in dopamine.
Besides the death of dopaminergic neurons, Parkinson’s is also linked with an increase in the synapses’ strength. These are common excitatory receptors in the brain. To simulate this disease’s effect, the researcher lured the death of dopaminergic neurons in the striatum of a mouse.
The mouse showed significant motor impairments consistent with Parkinson’s. Besides inducing the death of these neurons, the researcher also engineered AMPA-expressing cells to produce the Halo-Tag protein.
The mouse striatum was then treated with a popular AMPA receptor blocker linked to Halo-Tag ligand. Surprisingly, blocking the work of the AMPA-expressing neurons, even without the dopaminergic neurons, slowed the effects of Parkinson’s, making the affected mouse move normally.
The researcher’s discoveries with the Parkinson’s mouse depicts how little we are informed about cause and effect in the brain. The best way to get a viable treatment for neuropsychiatric diseases and other diseases may be by determining the relationship between the specific type of cells and the symptoms and focus on the condition that way.
It wouldn’t be surprising if entities like Predictive Oncology (NASDAQ: POAI) also have some unique techniques that they use to come up with novel remedies to health challenges.
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