The blood-brain barrier is one of the biggest obstacles in treating neurodegenerative diseases by delivering encapsulated agents to the brain

Researchers have developed a new nanoparticle drug delivery system in order to better treat brain disorders, Medicalxpress reported Friday.

The platform, developed by experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, functions by delivering encapsulated agents into the brain, and as shown in tests on mice, was able to successfully bypass the blood-brain barrier (BBB).

“It’s very difficult to get both small and large molecule therapeutic agents delivered across the BBB,” corresponding author Nitin Joshi, Ph.D., an associate bioengineer at the Center for Nanomedicine in the Brigham’s Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, said, according to Medicalxpress.

“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.”

Traditionally, the BBB is one of the biggest obstacles in treating neurodegenerative diseases. This is because of how difficult it is to penetrate, and how it heals. After a brain is injured, the BBB is damaged for a short window of time. However, it can recover within just a few weeks, limiting further treatment after this brief window.

As a result, finding a way to bypass it for treatments “has been somewhat of a holy grail in the field,” said co-senior author Jeff Karp, Ph.D., of the Brigham’s Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Medicalxpress reported.

Many other scientists have made efforts to bypass the BBB, and some meeting with various degrees of success. In 2012, a team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev created a system of synthetic nanoscale structures, called V-Smart drug delivery technology, to deliver drugs through the BBB. And in 2020, scientists at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology created a similar method, which was adapted by Nextage Therapeutics as a means to allow cannabis molecules to cross the BBB.

This latest study, the findings of which were published in the academic journal Science Advances, has accomplished something similar, the difference being it using an RNA molecule to inhibit tau proteins that are thought to play a role in neurodegenerative diseases, delivered in a coating made from unique biodegradable polymer called polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA), according to Medicalxpress.

And it’s the materials involved that make it really stand out, as the tests showed a minimal amount of damage to the BBB through this process.

“In addition to demonstrating the utility of this novel platform for drug delivery into the brain, this report establishes for the first time that systematic modulation of surface chemistry and coating density can be leveraged to tune the penetration of nanoparticles across biological barriers with tight junction,” said first author Wen Li, Ph.D., of the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, according to Medicalxpress.

The findings of this study, as with all other successful attempts at bypassing the BBB, hold great significance due to the implications for further attempts to treat serious neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Originally published at Jerusalem Post