Can A Monkey Brain Glow If Nobody Sees It?

No sooner is there an anouncement about an artificial implantable hippocampus chip than another way of jacking into the brain is announced less than two weeks later. As reported in New Scientist, William Pardridge is using tiny spheres called liposomes to carry genes into brain cells that would be unaffected by more traditional gene therapy methods like viruses, which are unable to penetrate the brain-blood barrier that keeps your brain and spinal fluid sterile. Pardridge attached genes to produce glow-in-the-dark luciferase onto the spheres and injected them into monkeys. The amount of luciferase produced in the (later autopsied) monkey brains was 50 times greater than produced by previous similar experiments in rats. Results were published in Molecular Therapy, Vol 7, pg 11.

Besides leading to Zen meditation koans like this article’s title and interesting enhancements to future remakes of certain scenes from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, this method shows promise for treating Parkinson’s Disease. The team gave rats a neurotoxin that causes Parkinson’s-like symptoms by cutting production of the key enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase. Four weeks later, the team injected the rats with liposomes containing a gene that boosts production of the enzyme. Three days after that, the rats’ abnormal movements were reduced by 70 per cent. Because the genes are not integrated into the genome, weekly or monthly injections of the liposome spheres would be needed for long-term treatment.