Delivering smart drugs into the brain

Woman reading on a couchThe future treatments of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Lou Geurig’s (ALS), and schizophrenia depend on our ability to send drugs past the blood brain barrier (BBB). This barrier is made up of tightly joined blood capillary cells that prevent blood components from leaking into the central nervous system (CNS) fluid. Until now, a practical method for delivering smart drugs into the brain has been elusive.

There have been several approaches to penetrating this barrier in the past. In one example, mannitol is used to allow access to the brain from the blood stream.  Mannitol is a sugar derivative which causes the blood capillaries to temporarily shrink and expose holes in the BBB.  However, components of the blood serum which move in with the intended drug are toxic to brain cells when they pass into the CNS fluid, making mannitol unfavorable for continuous use. In another example, proteins can be shuttled into the CNS fluid by tethering them to recognition signals for the transferrin receptor on the surface of brain capillary cells.  The size of the tethered drug greatly limits its applications.

Our technology creates liposome with multiple onion-like layers, allowing them to pass through the BBB. These layers are then slowly shed as the liposome passes through the BBB and enters the CNS fluid.  Our liposomes are then free to interact with nerve cells.  While the true causes of Alzheimer’s, ALS, and schizophrenia diseases are still being studied, the ability to reprogram, add or subtract genes in the brain would be a huge paradigm shift in the approach to neurodegenerative disease management.

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