BOISE — Researchers at Boise State are trying to understand how the tiniest parts of our body create the big picture. The big picture could offer more answers when it comes to autoimmune, or vascular diseases in the brain.
“We need to understand more, what’s going on with our bodies," said Ph.D. candidate student Travis Wertz at Boise State.
The basis of their research lies in the blood-brain barrier, which is the border between your blood and your brain.
“We believe that a lot of inflammatory conditions, whether its long-term Alzheimer's related, or short-term flare-ups from MS, hat they all in some way have a connection to the blood-brain barrier," said assistant research professor Dr. Richard Beard.
Specifically, they’re studying when it becomes damaged, due to things like inflammation or disease, and causes leakage in the brain.
“Lead to neuron dysfunction or poor brain either cognition or motor function as in the case of Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease," said Beard.
To put it simply, they want to figure out how to protect the cells from inflammation often found with MS, Alzheimer’s, or post-stroke, and they’re finding an insulin-like drug to be a key player.
“We have had pretty good success," said Beard.
It’s not a fix-all drug — but combined with other compounds or pharmaceuticals, they see great results.
“In some cases, like with some of the more recent things we’ve been looking at, we can actually reverse the damage that has occurred from the inflammation, so that’s been hopeful," said Beard.
Their lab big picture, their work could lead to drug development to help alleviate harmful side effects of vascular disease in the brain, like stroke. They’re continuing to study the effects and hope other labs see similar findings.
“The more effort we put into understanding things in the brain, for example, we can understand things that go on in your kidney or your spleen or anywhere else," said Wertz.
Dr. Richard Beard is an American Heart Association-funded researcher at Boise State, and in 2017 his lab received a grant to support their work through 2020.