Drug delivery to the brain remains a challenge due to the blood-brain barrier, a specialized endothelial layer that is highly selective in terms of allowing neural tissue beyond. At the University of Texas at Dallas, researchers have developed a technique that allows therapists to cross the blood-brain barrier, potentially allowing new treatments for brain tumors and other conditions that affect the brain.
The method involves administering gold nanoparticles into the bloodstream and then activating them by transcranial laser illumination to cause temporary openings in the tight junctions between the endothelial cells that line the cerebral blood vessels. Once the nanoparticles are in place near the tight junctions, the researchers use a very rapid burst of laser light, which can penetrate the skull noninvasively, to “activate” them, causing a small mechanical force to act. on close joints. This means that the barrier becomes permeable over time, allowing researchers to offer different types of therapy to the brain.
To date, the UT Dallas team has tested the system in its ability to offer a variety of therapeutics, including antibodies, gene therapies and liposomes, suggesting that the technique is very versatile.
“Approaches to increasing the blood – brain barrier [BBB] permeability are essential to advance therapy for central nervous system diseases, “Xiaoqing Li, a researcher involved in the study, said in a press release.” The action produces a small mechanical force that it temporarily breaks down the open barrier for a drug to enter the bloodstream in the brain. ”
So far, the UT Dallas team has shown that the technique does not appear to be harmful and allows them to offer a variety of therapeutics. More studies will be needed, but the new technique may prove very important in making new therapies available for brain conditions.
“We have shown that BBB permeability can be modulated without significant disruption of spontaneous vasomotion or neurovascular unit structure,” said Drs. Qi Cai, another researcher involved in the study.