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12/06/2012

The Princeton Institute of Life Sciences (PILS) has launched an innovative project “BBB Protection” aimed at elucidating causal mechanisms of atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases and developing new drugs for their prophylaxis and treatment

Although drugs lowering cholesterol levels in the blood are widely used, the underlying mechanisms that drive atherosclerosis (i.e., the formation of cholesterol-containing plaques on the walls of arteries) may also be linked to the initiation and progression of a number of devastating neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis.

A novel approach to study these mechanisms and their interrelationship has been proposed by Professor Robert Nagele from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), USA.  This approach is based on studying structural and functional alterations that are linked to inflammation in endothelial cells that form the inner lining of the walls of blood vessels.  It is thought that these inflammation-associated changes provide a common thread that contributes to the development of focal atherosclerotic lesions as well as breakdown of the blood-brain barrier in the brain that is involved in both the initiation and progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Some aspects of this novel approach have been described in an article published by Professor Nagele in 2011 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Vol. 25, pp. 605-622).
 
In 2010 the Rostock Group became acquainted with Professor Nagele's ideas and found them highly promising. With the help of Rostock Group the experimental approach and methodology of the project entitled “BBB Protection” was carefully planned and designed.  Because this is an early stage project aimed at testing a new scientific hypothesis the Rostock Group actively sought non-profit financing in the form of grants or donations.  At the end of 2012, a Member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Andrey Skoch, agreed to finance the “BBB Protection” project.  Known for his philanthropy and support of the sciences and arts, Mr. Skoch designated a $1 million dollar grant to the Princeton Institute of Life Sciences for the initial stage of this project. It is expected that, by the end of 2013, the key points of Professor Nagele's hypothesis will be tested and novel compounds that can prevent the development of atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases will be identified.

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