The BPRC Alternative Methods Unit often works with culture systems for certain types of brain cells known as microglia. We grow these cells using brain matter from dead animals. In this way, we are able to chart the so-called immunological reactions in the brain. It is important to note here that no animals are ‘sacrificed’ to obtain the tissue that we use, which is purely residual material.
Together with researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), BPRC has focused on one particular protein called VISTA. This protein may play an important role in various inflammatory disorders, including multiple sclerosis.
What happens to the protein when inflammation is present?
The quantity of VISTA produced by the microglia appears to be strictly regulated. When we exposed these brain cells to inflammatory agents, for instance, they stopped producing VISTA. Further study also showed that there is likely to be less VISTA present in the brain tissue of people with multiple sclerosis than is found in healthy brain tissue. Conversely, brain tissue from individuals with Alzheimer's appears to have more VISTA surrounding the microglia. The UMCG researchers were also successful in demonstrating that mice exposed to inflammatory agents have less VISTA as well.
How VISTA actually influences the progression of various illnesses remains unclear. More research is required to find out the details. To that end, effective collaboration between different parties with specific areas of expertise will be vital. BPRC has extensive knowledge to contribute in terms of innovations that do not involve animal testing.
To learn more, read the article here.