Scientists find way to deliver drugs straight into people’s brains

Reuters / Chaiwat Subprasom
A team of Canadian scientists has found a way to break the barrier of the human body that keeps the nervous and circulatory systems apart, and inject the drugs directly into the brain using “carrier” antibodies.

That system known as the blood-brain barrier (BBB) protects the human skull from any microbes or chemicals, thus keeping the brain clean.

But this barrier also filters good things, such as disease fighting drugs from entering the nervous system. It only allows a selected few types of molecules to cross including water, some gases and lipid soluble molecules.

Scientists from the Canadian National Research Council have been battling for years to find a way to trick it and get the drugs to where they are most needed - to the human brain.

Currently, researchers say they have found a way based on the so-called “single domain antibodies” (SDA). It includes using special molecular fragments that are capable of tricking the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and making it believe they should be let through to the brain. The antibodies are able to squeeze past the barrier not just because of their size (these are fragments that consist of one molecule) but also due to being familiar to some of the receptors along the blood-brain barrier.

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The single domain antibodies are exploiting the same mechanism that allows nutrients into the brain, and are able to bind chemically to other molecules.

The scientists add that the method allows them to target multiple types of diseases by producing different carrier molecules.

The method is part of the NRC's Therapeutics Beyond Brain Barriers (TBBB) program, which has been developing special carrier molecules for the past six years.

"It really opens the possibilities to use many different types of therapeutics for different diseases that we couldn't really use before unless we inject them directly into the brain which is highly invasive,” Dr. Danica Stanimirovic, the project`s scientific head, told Motherboard.

Scientists add that it could become a significant step towards slowing the spread of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.

The discovery follows years of scientific work. At the moment drugs are usually placed into the blood and there they find a way around the body.

Still, researchers say it will take over a decade to finalize clinical trials.