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What role does the immune system play in brain diseases?

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    As a company with expertise in neurology and immunology, UCB is well placed to explore this question.

    A new paper co-authored by researchers from Yale and UCB explores the role of cutting edge imaging techniques in studying brain inflammation.

    This work, which was presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, could help understand neurodegeneration and guide treatment choices that will become available in the coming years. It is very much at the intersection of our areas of interest and shows the kinds of synergies that are emerging between neuroscience and immunology research.

    For UCB, and for me personally, it is hugely exciting to present our ideas to experts in nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. We believe that by breaking down barriers between disciplines we can find new approaches to solving the biggest challenges facing medical science.

    Brain inflammation
    For decades, scientists have been searching for ways to stop deterioration seen in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. The focus of research has been to try to find ways to prevent neuronal cell death thought to be caused by a build-up of a protein known as beta-amyloid.

    However, despite intense efforts, this has yet to produce a breakthrough for patients. Two other avenues are also being investigated: the misfolding of a protein called tau, which seems to be more closely related to the neuronal cell death seen in some neurodegenerative diseases, and the role of neuroinflammation in these diseases. The latter is currently of particular interest to our research team and is a new area of research at UCB.

    In our new study, we used positron emission tomography (PET) to measure activation of immune cells in the brain. Eight healthy individuals were given a PET ligand, a molecule that binds to immune cells in the brain and becomes visible on a PET.

    The subjects were scanned before and after being injected with LPS a substance known to stimulate the immune system temporarily. Looking at the PET scans, we could then see the impact on the brain of this immune response: before giving LPS the immune cells in the brain were resting; after giving LPS these cells were activated, a phenomenon called neuroinflammation.

    This is completely new. Nobody has used this kind of scan to look at an experimentally-induced brain immune response in humans.

    Implications for patients
    Our new research shows that PET imaging technology can be used to measure changes in brain inflammation. This offers two exciting possibilities. One is that new or existing anti-inflammatory medicines could be used to reduce inflammation – something that can be studied using PET scans. This would allow early clinical research to determine whether a new drug actually has the ability to reduce brain inflammation.

    The other is that it could ultimately be used as a patient stratification tool. The PET scan would tell doctors that their patient has (or has not) significant neuroinflammation. Based on this, a doctor would know whether using anti-inflammatory therapies is likely to be effective. In other words, this could be used to match the right patient with the right treatment.

    This work has implications for a variety of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, addiction and a whole range of other brain disorders.

    It sums up several aspects of UCB's approach to research: we collaborate with leading academic researchers; we embrace cutting edge technologies; and we combine our own expertise, from both neuroscience and immunology to try to improve the lives of patients.

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Posted by Dragana Maca Kastratovic, 15 August 2017 Good for the new therapy uptions.