It’s been more than a decade since Lih-Fen Lue, PhD, first isolated the brain cells responsible for inflammatory response in brain diseases.
"It was very exciting because even today there are very few laboratories in the world capable of isolating living cells from autopsy brains. It takes very fresh brain tissue to be successful,” Lue said.
Douglas Walker, PhD, was excited over the discovery, which prompted him to join her and work with the Institute’s Brain Donation Program, which is internationally recognized for its rapid autopsy of brain tissue, as a foundation for their work.
Lue and Walker work together in the Institute’s Neuroinflammation Laboratory, which is unique because it is the only lab with a two-scientist team and an open sponsorship. Their research is being funded by grants including two grants totaling almost $500,000 from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research.
The researchers are studying:
- The causes, effects and treatments of inflammation in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases – investigating the molecular mechanisms that trigger and sustain inflammatory responses in diseased brains.
- Several key molecules that may shed light on a better understanding of how brain inflammation.
- Genomics, using genetic material from isolated brain cells. The results are fascinating, and certainly will benefit their understanding of the reaction of inflammatory cells in Alzheimer’s disease.
“To be able to obtain data on the expression of every human gene using isolated human Alzheimer’s disease brain cells is a pioneering step. But, it is just the beginning,” Walker cautioned.
They also have developed a groundbreaking procedure to simultaneously isolate cells from brain blood vessels, as well as identify the inflammatory cell types. “Now we can model how disease-causing molecules enter the brain across the most tightly-controlled barrier that isolates it from the rest of the body,” Lue said.