A new technique developed by Dr. Elisa Konofagou, professor of biomedical engineering and radiology at Columbia Engineering, has demonstrated for the first time that the size of molecules penetrating the blood-brain barrier (BBB) can be controlled using acoustic pressure—the pressure of an ultrasound beam—to let specific molecules through. The study was published in the July 2014 issue of the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism. “This is an important breakthrough in getting drugs delivered to specific parts of the brain precisely, non-invasively, and safely, and may help in the treatment of central nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Konofagou, whose National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant (R01) funding was just renewed for another four years for an additional $2.22 million. The award is for research to determine the role of the microbubble in controlling both the efficacy and safety of drug safety through the BBB with a specific application for treating Parkinson’s disease. Most small—and all large—molecule drugs do not currently penetrate the blood-brain barrier that sits between the vascular bed and the brain tissue. “As a result,” Dr. Konofagou explains, “all central nervous system diseases remain undertreated at best. For example, we know that Parkinson’s disease would benefit by delivery of therapeutic molecules to the neurons so as to impede their slow death. But because of the virtually impermeable barrier, these drugs can only reach the brain through direct injection and that requires anesthesia and drilling the skull while also increasing the risk of infection and limiting the number of sites of injection.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story