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New drug-delivery system opens possibilities for treatment of numerous neurological disorders

Researchers believe that the new technology could be a game changer for many diseases that manifest in the central nervous system.

Scientists have overcome the biggest obstacle to treating neurological disorders - delivering therapeutics across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and into the brain has been a challenge.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : January 5, 2021 10:06 AM IST

One of the big challenges faced by the medical professionals when it comes to the treatment of neurological disorders is delivering the drugs to the brain. This won't be a problem anymore. A team of researchers has created a nanoparticle platform to facilitate successful delivery of therapeutic agents to the brain, which could open possibilities for the treatment of numerous neurological disorders.

Scientists have, in the past few decades, identified biological pathways leading to neurodegenerative diseases and developed promising molecular agents to target them. However, they haven't been able to successfully translate these findings into clinically approved treatments, partly because delivering therapeutics across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and into the brain has been a challenge.

The newly created nanoparticle platform can facilitate therapeutically effective delivery of encapsulated agents in mice with a physically breached or intact BBB, according to a study published in the journal Science Advances.

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In a mouse model of traumatic brain injury (TBI), the new delivery system showed three times more accumulation in brain than conventional methods of delivery and was therapeutically effective as well, its creators said. The research team, behind the new drug-delivery system, included bioengineers, physicians, and collaborators at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital.

A game changer for many chronic diseases

For delivering therapeutics into the brain after traumatic brain injury (TBI), doctors rely on the short window of time when the BBB is temporarily breached after a physical injury to the head. But after the BBB is repaired within a few weeks, physicians lack tools for effective drug delivery.

"Our solution was to encapsulate therapeutic agents into biocompatible nanoparticles with precisely engineered surface properties that would enable their therapeutically effective transport into the brain, independent of the state of the BBB," said corresponding author Nitin Joshi, PhD, an associate bioengineer at the Center for Nanomedicine in the Brigham's Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine.

Joshi and his team is hopeful that the technology could enable physicians to treat secondary injuries associated with traumatic brain injury that can lead to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other neurodegenerative diseases, which can develop during ensuing months and years once the blood-brain barrier has healed.

"Our radically simple approach is applicable to many neurological disorders where delivery of therapeutic agents to the brain is desired," added co-senior author Jeff Karp, PhD, of the Brigham's Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine.

Rebekah Mannix, MD, MPH, of the Division of Emergency Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital and a co-senior author on the study, believes that this new technology could be a game changer for many diseases that manifest in the central nervous system (CNS) as it could allow delivery of large number of diverse drugs, including antibiotics, antineoplastic agents, and neuropeptides to the brain.

Neurological disorders: Types and causes

Neurological disorders are defined as diseases that affect the brain and the central and autonomic nervous systems. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there are more than 600 recognized neurological disorders. While some of these diseases are relatively common, many rare. Epilepsy, learning disabilities, neuromuscular disorders, autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD), brain tumors, and cerebral palsy these are a few neurological disabilities.

The causes of neurological problems may vary. A neurological problem be caused due to genetic disorders, congenital abnormalities or disorders, infections, lifestyle or environmental health problems including malnutrition, and brain injury, spinal cord injury or nerve injury.

However, regardless of the cause, all neurological disabilities result from damage to the nervous system. The types and severity of the symptoms of the disorders depend on where the damage takes place.

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