Collaborative Lab Software Could Help Find An Immunotherapy for Alzheimer’s

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immunotherapy for alzheimers
Human BDNF, a neural protein recently used in immunotherapy for Alzheimer’s disease. Source: Wikipedia user Microswitch.

As all researchers know, working with mouse models typically comes with collaboration between labs and groups of scientists. Alzheimer’s research and immunotherapy are no different, and researchers in these fields may soon have even more reason to collaborate with each other. A recent exhibition in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association offers a promising new approach to treating degenerative brain diseases via combinatorial immunotherapy.1 Given the interdisciplinary and multi-group nature of immunotherapy and the new (and also interdisciplinary) context of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s certain that researchers pioneering this new subfield of inquiry will need excellent collaboration software.2

Retroviral Gene Therapy for Alzheimer’s?

The exhibition at UCSD seeks to combine gene therapy and immunotherapy to develop a cocktail to repair the early stages of the damage caused by Alzheimer’s and head off future danger. One part of the cocktail will act as an immunotherapeutic vaccine against proteins associated with Alzheimer’s, while the other portion of the cocktail will stave off future issues by promoting the growth of new neurons via genetic upregulation of neural growth factors. The researchers plan to use a genetically modified adeno-associated virus as a vehicle for delivery of the BDNF gene to the entorhinal cortex in their mice. Following in the footsteps of these researchers will require taking care of a number of different tasks.

Adeno-associated viruses are commonly used tools for gene therapy, but their use implies a network of collaboration.3 Generating viruses requires expensive equipment, skilled personnel, competent design and extensive quality control.4 Though many groups are competent and equipped enough to develop and isolate their own adenoviral vectors, it’s safe to say that most groups that can develop the vector on their own will need help testing it out in models. There’s simply too many different areas of specialization to cover viral production and animal model studies in one lab.

The Trouble With BDNF Production

Once researchers have produced their viral vector, the virus is formulated into an injectable format and infused into the mice. The virus then delivers its payload to the neurons in the entorhinal cortex where it will increase neuronal production of BDNF. Increased BDNF production should help to repair the early stages of damage from Alzheimer’s, but it’s not enough to prevent future damage from occurring. As proposed by the researchers, preventing future damage from occurring requires immunotherapy.

Hypothetically, if you were an immunologist working on a similar combinatorial immunotherapy, the mechanism of the gene therapy component of the cocktail would be familiar, but the downstream effect on neurons and larger brain structures would likely be murky territory. Immunologists rarely concern themselves with anatomical or physiological features outside of the lymphatic system except as a needed to characterize disease pathogenesis.

The role of BDNF in the brain and in Alzheimer’s disease is still developing, but the bottom line is that deficits in BDNF protein concentration or polymorphisms in its synthesis contribute to the progression of the disease.5  In a collaborative and heavily interdisciplinary environment like combinatorial Alzheimer’s immunotherapy, making sure that all collaborators are on the same page regarding the working hypotheses is absolutely critical.

Vaccinating Against Alzheimer’s

BDNF gene therapy, while a crucial piece of the puzzle, is only half of the picture. The researchers also plan to inject soluble amyloid beta protein into their mice periodically over the course of several months. The protein, when paired with an adjuvant, will act as a kind of vaccine against amyloid beta.6 The accumulation of amyloid beta plaques is associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease.7

Once again, researches will need to collaborate extensively to make sure that things run smoothly. Though immunologists will be responsible for designing, formulating, and manufacturing the vaccine, they’ll need help to execute their vision. Infusion into an area as delicate as a mouse brain for purposes as subtle as assessing behaviorally the progression of Alzheimer’s won’t succeed if it’s left to people who aren’t mouse specialists. Furthermore, once again researchers will bump into the fact that vaccine development and manufacturing can occur within the same lab, but the degree of specialization required rules out having their animal models handled under the same roof.

Collaborating to Conquer Alzheimer’s

Let’s take a quick inventory of the kind of groups and collaboration needed to approach combinatorial immunotherapy for Alzheimer’s:

  • Viral vector development and production group
  • Mouse model specialist group for infusion of therapeutics and animal maintenance
  • Immunotherapeutic vaccine design and development group
  • Alzheimer’s disease specialist group to assess therapy’s effectiveness and guide the combination therapy development
  • Clinical study group, when therapy moves into human testing
  • Regulatory groups, both for animal testing phase and in human phase

With this many different groups moving in concert, there’s a good chance that the immunotherapy development effort will need other non scientific groups to support their operations too, though they won’t need to have access to development data. A simplistic software solution which simply stores all data and allows every group to access all of it at once won’t be suitable.

Clinical and regulatory groups have their own information technology subsystems and collaboration networks for the majority of their data, and they’ll only need access to a subset of the experimental data that pertains to their jobs. Likewise, the different scientific groups need access to some of the data that their collaborators have, but would be quickly overwhelmed by the volume of information if they were forced to comb through a massive database. A complex and powerful software platform needs to be the hub from which all groups can coordinate with each other.

Collaborative Science Solutions is the collaboration, data sharing, workflow management, and interdisciplinary research enabling software that the Alzheimer’s disease researchers of today will use to develop the combinatorial immunotherapy solutions of tomorrow. Using Science Solutions, your team will be able to seamlessly share insights with your collaborators in order to build knowledge which will be used in animal models to develop the next generation of interventions. Contact us today to find out how you can use Science Solutions to start combining your lab’s efforts with other groups in a quick and powerful way.    

 

  1.  “Combinatorial Treatment With Ab Immunotherapy And BDNF In A Mouse Model Of Alzheimer’s Disease.” July 2016, http://aanddjournal.net/article/S1552-5260(16)32856-4/fulltext.
  2. “How Can Information Science Contribute To Alzheimer’s Disease Research?” 2015, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pra2.2015.14505201006/full.
  3. “Antibody Gene Transfer With Adeno-Associated Viral Vectors As A Method For HIV Prevention.” January 2017, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/imr.12478/full.
  4. “Development Of An Adeno-Associated Viral Vector For Mucopolysaccharidosis IIIC.” February 2015, http://www.mgmjournal.com/article/S1096-7192(14)00575-7/abstract.
  5. “The Role of BDNF In Alzheimer’s Disease.” January 2017, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969996116301024.
  6. “Different Human Vaccine Adjuvants Promote Distinct Antigen-Independent Immunological Signatures Tailored To Different Pathogens.” October 2015, https://www.nature.com/articles/srep19570.
  7. “Purified and Synthetic Alzheimer’s amyloid beta (AB) prions.” July 2012, http://www.pnas.org/content/109/27/11025.short.