A new ultrasound technique that uses acoustic pressure makes it possible for molecules to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, a discovery that could lead to a breakthrough in treatment of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, according to a study published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
The blood-brain barrier prevents substances from leaving the blood and crossing the capillary walls into the brain tissue, which can be a challenge for treating neurological diseases. Currently, the only technique that can permeate the blood-brain barrier safely and noninvasively is the use of focused ultrasound in combination with microbubbles.
In an effort to determine whether acoustic pressure from the focused ultrasound technique could for the first time control the size of the opening of the blood-brain barrier, researchers targeted the hippocampus, a region in the brain that controls memory and spatial navigation, and administered different-sized sugar molecules.
The results showed that smaller molecules were able to penetrate the barrier at lower acoustic pressures, while larger molecules penetrated the barrier at higher pressures, meaning that the pressure of the ultrasound beam could be adjusted depending on the size of the drug being delivered to the brain.
The authors concluded that understanding how to penetrate the blood-brain barrier could help them create a more effective method for providing localized brain drug delivery. They plan to continue work on the treatment of central nervous system diseases and hope to test their technique in clinical trials within the next five years.