Bringing Brains to the Table
Research Models
Mary Parker

Bringing Brains to the Table

From Parkinson's to Alzheimer's. What to look for at this year’s Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington, D.C.

The human brain is a tricky drug target. For starters, it’s hard getting drugs across the semipermeable blood-brain barrier—a sentry guard that allows some materials to cross but not others. And if your drug reaches the brain, it’s hard to track - especially in live animals - how and why the drug is working.

Enter Brains On-Line, a company recently acquired by Charles River that specializes in microdialysis, one of the few methods available to accurately determine quantities of various substances in freely moving animals. By combining microdialysis with other methods, drug developers can learn things like whether a certain neurotransmitter is released in response to a certain drug or an exogenous protein is present in the CNS. The information can help identify potential biomarkers for future studies.

At this year’s Society for Neuroscience meeting, which takes place in Washington, D.C. next week, four posters will feature recent work from Brains On-Line. One in particular will show research on Parkinson’s disease that used their signature technology, microdialysis, to characterize neurotransmitters and the alpha-synuclein protein that is thought to play a role in the release of certain neurotransmitters across the synapse - a central focus of many PD studies. Many scientists believe that fibril clumps of abnormal α-syn that gradually accumulate in the brain may prevent normal dopamine-producing cells from working properly.

Scientists from Brains On-Line will also be part of a video discussion about CNS research with Antti Nurmi, Managing Director of Charles River Discovery Services in Finland, who specializes in CNS studies in rodents. The video will be posted on Eureka during the meeting.

Here is a preview of what else Eureka will be blogging about at this year’s meeting.

  • What’s up with Parkinson’s? Along with the work showcased by Brains On-Line, we’ll be following an array of studies done in conjunction with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research about the use of adeno-associated viral vectors as a vehicle for delivering CNS drugs to the brain.
  • CRISPR. How is the gene editing tool CRISPR being used to study CNS? To find out we’ll be tuning into a booth presentation by CRL scientist Chris Dowdy, an expert in the use of CRISPR in mouse model creation.
  • Alzheimer’s and MS. We’ll also be checking out some interesting studies on tau—a brain protein that may or may not be the key driver of AD. And we’ll be finding out how touchscreen technology is being used in MS studies in rodents.
  • Lastly, we’ll be stopping by a scientific luncheon hosted by CRL that will focus on ways of improving the poor translatability of CNS models. The panel includes scientists from the non-profit, commercial and academic world.

You can catch all of the coverage at Hope to see you there!