Researchers at the University of Virginia say they can stop the inflammation that drives many inflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis. They call it an immune system electrical switch that they can’t wait to turn off.
Drug companies and doctors have always complained that they can’t treat neuro-inflammation because biological drugs are blocked by the blood-brain barrier. The barrier exists to protect the brain from bacteria or toxins in the blood, but it also keeps out drugs – probably for good reason!
A research team has identified an electrical switch, known as an ion channel, within macrophages that controls the flow of calcium into the cells. Without calcium, the cells can’t cause inflammation. They want to target this switch with tiny molecules to block its activity. Of course this is all speculation but drug companies have leapt into the fray and are working on drugs that could target this switch.
The study authors reasoned that even though there are very good drugs for inflammatory diseases they are extremely expensive and cannot be taken orally. They can also cost as much as $20,000 a year. They are the newest generation of drugs called biologicals. I’ve talked about my concerns about them in my blog Who Voted for Biologicals? I don’t think they are very good drugs at all.
The premise of this treatment rests on controlling an ion channel to block calcium, which I also don’t think is a good idea. As far as I know, calcium and magnesium work together to influence ion channels. A quick search for papers on macrophages and ion channels turns up the calcium – magnesium association. In muscle cells magnesium opens an ion channel to allow calcium to enter and then when the calcium-related activity occurs, magnesium pulls the calcium out. It’s probably much the same for macrophages. The other electrolytes are also probably important for the activity of macrophages.
The hubris of scientists to want to kill ion channels to stop calcium without thinking of the consequences of blocking all electrolytes is appalling.
Why don’t they focus on the superior anti-inflammatory activity of magnesium. Magnesium ions penetrate the blood brain barrier and keep calcium in solution so it doesn’t build up and cause inflammation. At least medicine is becoming aware of the detrimental effects of our calcified state but it is nowhere near the solution, which is magnesium.
Carolyn Dean MD ND
The Doctor of the Future®
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