Researchers have identified a protein used by aggressive immune cells seeking to breach the blood-brain barrier, reports a paper published online in Nature Immunology. Normally few immune cells enter the brains of healthy animals. However, neuroinflammatory disorders result in weakening of the blood-brain barrier, and entry of potentially dangerous immune cells into the central nervous system.
Alexandre Prat and colleagues show that the adhesion protein ALCAM acts as a 'foothold' for immune cells moving between blood-brain barrier endothelial cells. Blockade of ALCAM reduced the severity and slowed the progression of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a mouse model of human multiple sclerosis, and ALCAM worked synergistically with another adhesion molecule, ICAM1, to move immune cells across the blood-brain barrier.
Future work is needed to determine whether ALCAM blockade holds therapeutic utility in treating established human neuroinflammatory diseases.
Alexandre Prat (CHUM-Notre-Dame Hospital, Montreal, Canada)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
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