Homeland Security And Brain Health – An Odd Couple?

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

On first thoughts you probably might agree Homeland Security and brain health do indeed make for an odd couple. However, all is not what it seems for, in at least one major aspect, they have much in common.

Surprised? Let me explain…
As you are probably aware, a key feature of Homeland Security strategy is border protection. The purpose of border protection is to put in place and enforce a selection process by which a particular country can determine whom and what enters and leaves. Border protection is supported by a range of measures from physical barriers through to the most sophisticated surveillance technology.

So where does brain health fit in?
Well, the brain too has a security strategy. I like to call it Brainland Security. And the Brainland security strategy also has border protection as a key factor. In Brainland, border protection is provided primarily by the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) – you may recall BBB from the previous post on nanoparticles.

In a purpose similar to Homeland border protection, the BBB acts to select what passes in and out of Brainland. Don’t you think it’s remarkable how similar the two protection strategies appear to be?

I hope so, because we’re about to look at them in more detail…

1) Homeland Security – country border protection
1.1 The purposes of border protection include to:
* Keep out ordinary people who attempt to enter without permission
* Keep out drugs
* Prevent arms smuggling
* Keep out known terrorists and would-be terrorists
* Generally reduce the threat to people and infrastructures.

1.2 How border protection may be compromised:
* Completely bypassing the barrier – under, over, around
* Find holes
* Make holes  
* Corruption
* Distraction
* Creative hiding
* Disguise       … are a few examples.

2) Brainland Security – brain border protection
2.1 The function and purpose of the brain’s checkpoint, the BBB
* To selectively allow the entry of certain molecules that circulate  in the blood into the brain. [a molecule is the smallest particle of a substance that still has the properties of the substance]
* Protect the brain from invasion by various toxins and other harmful molecules.
* Allow out anything dangerous to the brain.

2.2 How the brain’s border protection may be compromised:
 These are just some of the ways scientists are considering and/or trialling to compromise the BBB.                          
* Using a bacterium to trick the BBB to open a gate and let it into the brain.
* ‘Trojan Horse’ attacks whereby a drug is attached to a molecule that is normally allowed through the BBB.
Targeted ultrasound techniques that disrupt the BBB
* Using microwave radiation pulses that can alter the permeability of the BBB.
* Using nanoparticles:
a) Certain proteins are allowed across the BBB as they function as nutrient carriers. Linking these  with nanoparticles of drugs is a potential way of getting the drugs into the brain.
b) Nanoparticles may be able to bypass the BBB completely by using the olfactory system which has direct access to the brain.  

Okay, it’s time to start drawing this stuff together…

Let’s start with Homeland Security:
No doubt people smugglers, drug traffickers, terrorists and others spend considerable time and effort trying to find ways to breach a country’s border security. We are happy to accept that such activities pose a potential threat to the safety of the people and infrastructure of that country. What’s more… if such people are caught we expect them to be dealt with severely.

All of this seems reasonable based on the chaos and carnage we have seen, or maybe even personally experienced, as a result, for example, of a terrorist attack.

But what about Brainland Security?
Researchers and drug companies appear to be expending a great deal of effort and no doubt spending a great deal of money trying to find ways to break down the brain’s border protection.

To date, we seem to be happy to accept that such actions are in the brain’s best interest and are welcome by the brain’s (country’s) cells (people) and the brain’s circuitry (infrastructure).  [Note: I’ve used the terms in brackets to remind you of the parallels between Homeland and Brainland border protection]

What’s more, if researchers are successful we expect them to be rewarded.

All this might seem reasonable if it wasn’t for the fact that we really have no firm idea how breaking down the brain’s border protection will affect the brain in the long-term or even in the short-term. We can draw limited conclusions from the observed effects of recreational drugs on the brain since several of them pass through the BBB – and what we see is hardly encouraging.

It’s disturbing too that there doesn’t appear to be much research either theoretical or applied to suggest that there is any serious interest in identifying the possible effects of a compromised BBB on the overall long-term health of the brain.

In summary…
I recall I started by inferring that Homeland Security and brain health had at least one key aspect of their security strategies in common. As you are now aware they both practice border protection.

But that’s where the similarity ends. Why?

Because for Homeland Security the focus of effort and money is on strengthening border protection and keeping alien things out. Contrast Brainland Security where the emphasis is on weakening border protection and letting alien things in.

I know which strategy I’m more comfortable with… what about you?
As always, your comments are very welcome….and. if you like this post please let your friends know and help spread the word about the importance of thinking and brain health at any age.

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8 Responses to “Homeland Security And Brain Health – An Odd Couple?”

  1. Jessie Oltrogge Says:

    This information is bit incomplete, I must say that the homework was done really good, but the problem came when you tried to assemble this information and present it….

  2. michael Says:

    Hi Jessie,
    Thanks for your assessment. It would really help if you could explain exactly what you are having trouble with That way I may be able to help you understand and improve the post at the same time. A win-win situation. I look forward to receiving your detailed analysis.
    Cheers Michael.

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