Researchers Develop New Drug Delivery Method

A new study looks at improving the effectiveness of delivering drugs that fight neurodegenerative diseases.

Brain image via shutterstock

Brain image via shutterstock

In a study published in PLoS One, Harvard Medical School researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary’s Department of Otology and Laryngology recently demonstrated a new method to deliver drugs directly to the brain which may mean better treatment for patients with neurodegenerative diseases.

According to a Harvard Medical School, more than 20 million Americans—both adults and children—suffer from neurodegenerative diseases and central nervous system (CNS) diseases. Neurodegenerative diseases are the focus of many progressive studies and many new drugs are being developed, but 98 percent of all pharmaceutical treatments cannot combat the diseases directly in the brain because they cannot cross the blood-brain barrier.

Previous researchers have attempted to deliver these drugs via osmotic disruption—disrupting the regular functions of red blood cells—and catheter implantation. But both of these methods are prone to infection and dislodgment.

Harvard Medical School researchers have discovered a way to safely breach the blood-brain barrier. Using previously established transnasal surgical procedures, the authors of the study have experimented with delivering the drugs through the lining of the nose. Using a patient’s own tissues, the researchers were able to create a semipermeable window in the blood-brain barrier that allows neurodegenerative drugs to directly access the brain. This method, if proven effective in humans, will allow important drugs to get to the source of neurodegenerative and central nervous system diseases and more effectively slow their progress.

In experiments in mice using this method, researchers discovered that these windows were able to deliver up to 1,000 times more molecules of the drugs than previous methods. This procedure has also proven to be more permanent than previous methods.

Benjamin Bleier, an assistant professor of ontology and laryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, said in a press release:

“Since this is a proven surgical technique known to be safe and well tolerated, these data suggest that these membranes might be used to permanently bypass the blood-brain barrier using a patient’s own tissue.”

The authors of the study say that future studies will develop clinical trials to test the method in patients who have already undergone similar transnasal procedures.