A recent discovery linking the brain to the immune system, which stunned the scientific community, helps show the mechanistic pathway of VG Life Sciences’ patented peptide technology in preventing the long-term damages caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Investigators at the University of Virginia School of Medicine identified immune system vessels that line the dural sinuses and link directly to the brain. They are so deep and well hidden that they had previously gone undetected. The true significance of the discovery is the effect it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism, to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.

“The brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, Ph.D., professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions.”

“We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role,” Kipnis said in an article published in Science Daily. A post-doctoral fellow in Kipnis’ lab made the discovery.

VGLS has already been exploring the immune system’s link to the brain.

In 2014, Richard Tobin, Ph.D., who works in the lab of our Chief Scientist M. Karen Newell-Rogers at Texas A&M University, published data demonstrating that when there is a TBI the body inflicts additional neural damage via the immune system. Dr. Tobin’s data also showed that our lead peptide drug, VG1177, helps to prevent further damage triggered by an ongoing immune response.

TBI can vary in severity from a mild concussion to lifelong debilitation; however, these complications are not entirely the direct result of trauma, but rather complications resulting from immune activation, Tobin’s paper stated. Neurological complications, such as swelling, lack of oxygen, and inflammation also contribute to the damage sustained from an initial insult.

VG1177, developed in Newell-Roger’s lab, is a synthetic peptide that ameliorates the harm from the inflammation caused by the body’s immune response.

“We inject our peptide’s into the peritoneum and see binding in the brain,” said Newell-Rogers. “The UVA news is consistent with trafficking of our peptide from the peritoneum through the lymphatics to the brain where it like exerts its protective effects,” she said.

TBI can cause permanent damage to the brain, resulting in disability, emotional instability, chronic headaches, and other neuronal dysfunction. Importantly, there are approximately 1.7 million TBIs annually and there is no effective therapy to prevent the serious consequences of brain trauma. Moreover, the total estimated cost of TBI (treatment and loss of productivity) in the US alone was $76.5 billion in 2010. Thus, TBI is an urgent clinical problem, yet biomarkers and treatments are lacking for TBI and post-TBI syndromes.

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