SfN 2017: How microdialysis and bioanalysis can aid in CNS drug discovery. A conversation with Brains On-Line scientist Gunnar Flik

The burden of CNS disease is tremendous and growing. In the US alone, one in four Americans suffer from at least one neurological condition. The US National Institute of Mental Health estimates that CNS disorders cost the U.S. over $317 billion in healthcare expenditures, lost wages, and disability benefits. If this trends continue, CNS disorders are expected to make up 14.7 percent of the global disease burden by 2020 — the largest burden of any disease group.

Unfortunately, CNS Drug Discovery has had limited success in identifying novel ways to treat these diseases and for neurodegenerative conditions, like the rare, inherited disorder Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s, considered by some to be the biggest public health threat of our generation, there simply are no good ways or slowing disease progression.

Among the many challenges facing developers of drugs for CNS disease is finding compounds that can cross the blood-brain barrier and finding targets of interest, and then being able to translate those findings into clinical solutions. Microdialysis, one of the few methods available to accurately determine quantities of various substances—such as neurotransmitters—in freely moving animals is a way of gauging how brain cells are responding to a particular drug over time. In this regard, it can be a valuable complement to other measures of drug response.

Brains On-Line, a contract research organization recently acquired by Charles River, specializes in microdialysis another experimental techniques for measuring neurotransmitters and exogenous compounds—such as antibody therapies—in the CNS. At this week’s Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington, D.C., Antti Nurmi, Managing Director of Charles River Discovery Services in Finland sat down with Gunnar Flik, the managing director of Brains On-Line to talk about how microdialysis and other techniques can help overcome some of the challenges in CNS drugs discovery.