Amazing!!! How a parasitic fish could help us fight brain cancer and stroke

New Discovery: Researchers turn to an ancient species of fish called Lampreys in a bid to find a better way of delivering therapeutic drugs into the brain to treat conditions and events ranging from cancer to stroke.

Lampreys (sometimes inaccurately called lamprey eels) are an ancient extant lineage of jawless fish of the order Petromyzontiformes, placed in the superclass Cyclostomata. The adult lamprey may be characterized by a toothed, funnel-like sucking mouth. The common name "lamprey" is probably derived from Latin lampetra, which may mean "stone licker" (lambere "to lick" + petra "stone"), though the etymology is uncertain. The plural form lamprey is sometimes seen.

New research suggests that these aquatic-dwellers may provide an adaptable vehicle for drugs that treat the biological effects of conditions or health events affecting the brain.

A recent study, conducted by a team of scientists from University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Texas at Austin, has looked at a type of molecule from the immune system of lampreys, called "variable lymphocyte receptors" (VLRs).
The researchers explain that what makes VLRs interesting is their ability to target the extracellular matrix (ECM), a network of macromolecules that provide structure to the cells they surround.
This network makes up a large part of the central nervous system, so the research team believes that VLRs can help carry drugs to the brain, boosting the effectiveness of treatments for brain cancer, brain trauma, or stroke.

The researchers tested their hypothesis on mouse models of aggressive brain cancer, and they report their results in the journal Science Advances Normally, drugs will not easily penetrate the brain because it is protected by the brain-blood barrier, which stops potentially harmful agents leaking into the brain. However, this barrier also prevents the medication from reaching its target.In the case of some health events that affect the brain, the brain-blood barrier "loosens up," which can expose the brain to further problems but also allows drugs to get in. In the current research, the investigators were interested in testing the effectiveness of VLRs, taking advantage of the disruption of the brain-blood barrier in the case of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer."Molecules like this [VLRs] normally couldn't ferry cargo into the brain, but anywhere there's a blood-brain barrier disruption, they can deliver drugs right to the site of pathology," explains Prof. Shusta.

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