An ancient species of parasitic fish might be the new direction of delivering therapeutic drugs into the brain. The goal? To help treat issues like brain cancer and stroke. The lampreys are one of the oldest surviving of eel-like fish. Now, they are being used to help transport drugs to the brain.
Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Texas at Austin have been doing research into new adaptable vehicles for drugs. They want to find new ways of treating the biological conditions of the brain like cancer or stroke. Their focus is the Lampreys, one of the oldest surviving species of eel-like jawless fish. They are strange looking with a boneless body and a tooth-lined mouth. Also, they are parasitic, feeding on the blood of other fish.
First, the research team conducted experiments looking at a type of molecule that they lampreys have. The molecule is called the “variable lymphocyte receptors” or VLRs. Then, researchers explained that the VLRs could target the extracellular matrix, a network of macromolecules that provide structure to the surrounding cells. This is the network that the central nervous system is made out of for the most part. Do to that relation. Scientists think that the VLRs can help to carry drugs to the brain and boost the effectiveness of treatments for brain cancer, brain trauma, or stroke.
Promising Experiments on Aggressive Brain Cancer in Mice
The researchers tested their theory on mice with aggressive brain cancer. When a person takes something, it won’t easily pass to the brain because of the blood-brain barrier that’s the goal is to keep foreign things away from the brain. However, this is a double-edged sword in some ways as it also prevents medications from reaching their target.
VLRs usually can’t carry drugs into the brain due to this barrier. However, they can take medicines anywhere else that they are needed. Researchers wanted to look into how they could get past this barrier. The scientists report that the approach that they took was promising and ended with a longer survival rate for the rodents treated.
Co-author and professor John Kuo said, “Similar to water soaking into a sponge, the lamprey molecules will potentially accumulate much more of the drug in the abundant matrix around cells compared to specific delivery to cells.” This means in less scientific terms that more of the drug will be able to make it to where it needs to be, promising indeed.